Angelique Kerber vs Monica Puig – Women’s Gold Medal Match

The Rio final in women’s singles will feature Angelique Kerber against an upstart player from Puerto Rico.

Angelique Kerber will enter the women’s final on Saturday as the favorite to win the gold medal. The reigning Australian Open champion defeated Madison Keys on Friday to advance to the Olympic final. Kerber will next face Monica Puig, a relatively-unknown player that seems to have a ton of self belief.

It was a few days ago when Puig defeated Muguruza in the round of sixteen at the women’s singles event. The Puerto Rican made some confident statements after that victory, statements that suggested that she wasn’t surprised by the result, even if the tennis pundits were.

“I know what I want to achieve,” Puig stated a few days ago, “and I’m letting the world know that Monica Puig is here.”

That truly was a head-turning statement for me. Soft-spoken athletes are more common on the women’s tour, so it was surprising to see a player announce that she’s effectively arrived as a big-tournament contender.

Following the defeat of Muguruza and such bold talk the pressure was certainly on to follow up the victory. Puig did that in the quarterfinals against Laura Siegemund and the Puerto Rican certainly backed up her talk in the semifinals, eliminating Petra Kvitova from gold-medal contention. If Puig can get one more victory then she will shock the women’s world of tennis and claim a gold medal in a draw that featured numerous more-proven players.

However, despite the fact that Puig has match-wins in Rio against both Kvitova and Muguruza, the upstart has not yet beaten anyone who is playing as good as Kerber is right now. Serena Williams is the only constant on tour it seems: with the secondary players like Kerber, Muguruza, and others it’s more about who the ‘woman-of-the-moment’ is.

Muguruza, who Puig beat, appeared to be getting back to strong tennis early in Rio, however she remains in her post-French Open slump. Kvitova, at her best, would certainly have made the gold medal final, but now she’s not even a favorite to win the bronze in my view. For whatever Kvitova and Muguruza accomplished at other points in their seasons/careers, Kerber is the player that’s of the moment on the women’s tour in Rio and that makes her a very tall order for Puig.

The two players have met twice before, with the German winning both matches. Both were played on the hard-court surface, although neither match is from 2016. It’s important to note that Puig is playing a lot better now than she was at previous points in her career. However, Kerber’s 2016 season is better than her previous seasons as well.

I do not doubt that we are watching the emergence of Puig as a contender on tour. However, I still think it will take more than what Puig has to beat Kerber. The German is way too sharp right now and she has a lot of big-match experience to her credit as well. That’s a huge edge heading into what could a one-in-a-lifetime match for both players.

Shane Lambert