Monica Puig’s Rio Olympics – Biggest Surprise in Year’s

Monica Puig of Puerto Rico won the gold medal for women’s singles. Is she the biggest surprise winner of a major event since the 2010 French Open?

Monica Puig, following an amazing run at the 2016 Rio Olympics, won the biggest tournament of her career on Saturday. The 22 year old Puerto Rican claimed the women’s gold medal for singles with an upset victory of Angelique Kerber in the final match. Puig’s shocking result is the biggest surprise in several years in women’s tennis, at least when it comes to the big tournaments.

What exactly constitutes a big tournament is certainly something people could debate. However, I would submit that the WTA Finals, the four majors, and the Olympics are the most prestigious events in women’s tennis. I would not count the Premier Mandatory tournaments, simply because of how numerous they are in a calendar year. With those qualifications, I think you have to go back to at least the 2010 French Open to find a similarly-surprising outcome in a big event.

At the 2010 French Open, tennis fans will remember that Francesca Schiavone came almost out of nowhere to win the title. Even as late as the semifinals, she was considered the one player in the event that probably could not win the tournament. However, she managed to get Elena Dementieva to tap out in the semifinals before defeating Sam Stosur in the final. When it comes to Cinderella-runs where the clock did not strike midnight, Puig can be mentioned in the same sentence as Schiavone.

With a fierce determination and confident swagger that we’ve never seen in the Puerto Rican before, Puig scythed her way through the competition in Rio. While the event did not offer any ranking points, the gold medal will surely be reward enough. With the Olympics so rare, so few women’s tennis players can claim a medal in singles – let alone a gold one. Puig has a career achievement that none will ever be able to take away from her.

However, her game was so impressive in Rio that you do have to wonder if we just witnessed the emergence of a special player. She’ll remain ranked outside of the Top 30, but it may just be a matter of time before she becomes a fixture in the Top 20. If she plays anything close to how she played in Rio for the balance of the season, Puig might may very well do some late-round damage at the US Open later this summer.

Kerber, for her efforts, earned another second-placed prize after finishing runnerup at Wimbledon. The German claimed silver while Petra Kvitova claimed the bronze medal. American Madison Keys was the semifinalist left out of the medals as she fell to Kerber and then Kvitova the last two days.

There will be no rest for the weary. Next up on tour is Cincinnati with New Haven to follow. The 2016 US Open will start on August 29th with the medalists all looking to get in the thick of things there as well.

Shane Lambert