Women’s Final in Rio: Kerber v Puig
Angelique Kerber will look back on 2016 as a stellar breakout year. A year that has propelled her to the top table of Ladies tennis, with or without an Olympic gold medal. If her Australian Open title was the breakout, then her Wimbledon run was the confirmation. An Olympic gold will be the cherry on the proverbial cake.
The 28-year-old, hailing from Bremen will be the first German in gold medal contention on the final day of the event since the great Steffi Graf won gold at the 1988 games. Graf has been a source of inspiration for Kerber and a person she has readily turned to for advice during her superb 2016 campaign.
Steffi Graf is an inspiration and source of advice for Angelique Kerber
“I think it will be exciting, It’s my first Olympic final and I’ll try to enjoy it. It’s a special day, but I’ll try to stay focused and not be so emotional,” said Kerber, looking forward to the clash.
Kerber was tested during her semi-final victory over Madison Keys, the big-hitting American powerhouse dictating a lot of the points in the first set before Kerber redressed the balance and took four games on the spin to wrestle the first set away from her opponent.
The second set was a tight affair, largely going with serve before Kerber was forced to save three break points in the ninth game. Once again, we saw how tough Kerber has become playing the big points. Keys is still to develop that toughness to her game and squandered opportunities before Kerber got the critical break that would ultimately see her home.
“She’s really found her game, She’s at the top right now.” acknowledged Keys after the match.
Much has been written about Monica Puig this week… largely because she’s stayed in the tournament long enough to be written about.
While Kerber reaching the business end of proceedings in the big tournaments is becoming the “norm”, Puig’s run has been unexpected but exhilarating, not least by the manner in which she is winning matches. She’s been a revelation.
Puig demanded attention after her third round pummelling of World Number 3 Garbine Muguruza, administering a pair of breadsticks to the highly touted French Open champion en route to a 6-1, 6-1 victory. She proved it wasn’t a fluke by grinding out a tough semi-final victory over in-form, two-time Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova 6-4, 1-6, 6-3.
Puerto Rico will be watching as Puig’s run has lifted a nation. She is already guaranteed to be the country’s ninth ever Olympian to win a medal, and the final provides her with an opportunity to become the nation’s first ever gold medallist.
Kerber will be the bookmaker’s favourite but everything about Puig in this historic week has been anything but predictable. How she will react to being in an Olympic final with a country’s hopes on her shoulders is unknown.
“This Olympics isn’t about me. It’s about Puerto Rico, and I know how bad they want this, The island is full of such bad news all the time so every time … somebody from the island wins a medal, everything stops. I know how happy everybody gets.”
Puig has the tools to cause an upset but Kerber has the tactical nous and coolness under pressure to nullify the Puerto Rican. That, together with the question marks hanging over Puig’s temperament in a major final means the German will be the favourite going into the match.
Head to Head: Kerber leads 2-0
2015 Canadian Masters R32 Hard Angelique Kerber Monica Puig 6-2 6-3
2013 Brisbane R16 Hard Angelique Kerber Monica Puig 3-6 6-4 7-6(7)