Monica Puig posted a thrilling victory over No.11 seed Angelique in the Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open first round, 7-6(5), 5-7, 6-1.
Reported by WTATennis.com
In a high-quality epic of innumerable twists and turns, which stretched two hours 49 minutes in duration, the Puerto Rican reprised her 2016 Olympic final success over her German rival, showing formidable mental strength to take the decider after squandering two match points in the second then faltering when serving for a place in the second round.
By the time the decider began, the momentum appeared to be in favor of the WTA World No.12, who seemed to have quelled the big hitting of her opponent. However, Puig, who will celebrate her 26th birthday on Friday, showed commendable maturity to compose herself and move 3-3 in her career head-to-head against the three-time Grand Slam winner.
A quarterfinalist in Wuhan last year, she came out firing in the opening set, cracking seven winners in the opening four games to make clear her offensive intentions for the duration of the encounter.
Kerber absorbed the power admirably then produced a game of sustained pressure that allowed her to get ahead on the scoreboard for the first time by breaking.
She was unable to build on this advantage, though. After the opening six games had all gone with serve, the subsequent four resulted in breaks.
As the climax of the opening set was reached, the standard of the match soared. Kerber’s counterpunching was especially impressive as she held serve to force a tiebreak, in which Puig manufactured a 4-1 lead with some super tennis, the highlight of which was an athletic lob winner.
The WTA World No.71 became a little more tentative as the deciding game wore on, but her early advantage was sufficient to see her cross the line.
For much of the second set, it seemed that Puig would close the match out in two. She broke early then displayed a great deal of resilience to persistently thwart Kerber, who was asking regular questions on her serve.
Indeed, it was the lower-ranked player who looked likely to get the crucial second break as she fashioned a point to do so midway through the set, then crafted two match points at 5-4. Kerber, however, saved her best tennis for these clutch moments and shut her down.
The 2018 Wimbledon winner then showed her champion quality by counterpunching brilliantly to sweep three successive games and force a deciding set.
While a wobble might have been expected by Puig at that juncture, it instead fortified her, though she was given a helping hand to move into the ascendancy once more as Kerber double faulted twice critically in the opening game.
The decisive moments of the match, though, arrived midway through the set. Puig found herself 0-40 down on serve but brilliantly extricated herself from the situation thanks to a succession of powerful and accurate strokes.
This sequence was the one that finally broke Kerber’s morale, and having apparently been on a charge, she was broken to 15 twice in the closing three games as Puig set up a second-round meeting with Alison Riske.