Photo: Victoria Nuño CárdenasMonica Puig (Puerto Rico)
Puerto Rican Fed Cup player, Monica Puig, is our featured player for October.
The recently turned 19-year old competed during the month at three high prize money level tournaments in France. All were played on indoor hard courts and the first saw her competing in Joue-Les-Tours, a suburb of the city of Tours in central France.
Puig was an unseeded player for the Joue-Les-Tours $50,000 tournament and was drawn to play the tournament’s top seed, Alexandra Panova from Russia, in the opening round of play. The seed quickly moved into a one set lead, winning 62 to leave the teenager facing an early exit.
The second set saw Puig begin her recovery and narrowly took the set 64 to level the match. A place in the next round would now be decided in a third set and Puig really upped her game here and conceded just one game to cause an opening round upset and knock-out the top seed.
Puig backed up this win with two straight sets wins, including dropping only two games in her quarterfinal win, to reach the semifinal where she faced Belgium’s An-Sophie Mestach. The 18-year old Belgian was competing in the main draw as a Junior Exempt and won her first Pro Circuit title in mid-September.
Following a comfortable 62 first set win, Puig was pressed harder in the second set which went to a tiebreak. Puig dominated play throughout the tiebreak winning it 7-0 to progress to the final against fifth seed Maria Joao Koehler.
Puig’s Portuguese opponent looked on course for the title when moving into a one set lead but, just as she had in the opening round against seeded opposition, Puig hit back immediately to level the score at one set all with a 64 win. Puig then rounded off the week in style as she powered to a 61 final set win to claim her first ITF Pro Circuit singles title since her August 2011 success in San Luis Potosi.
Following a week away from professional tennis, next up for Puig was a $100,000 tournament. This was taking place in west central France in Poitiers, a city on the Clain river. This tournament was now in its sixth year of offering $100,000 in prize money and has had some big name winners in recent years including Jelena Dokic and, last year, Kimiko Date-Krumm.
Once again Puig was among the unseeded players and although avoiding a seed in the opening round as faced in her previous tournament, she did discover that she was to face the former WTA world number 16, and a home favourite, Virginie Razzano.
This proved a close match which required three sets to settle it with the match ending as Puig came from behind to win 36 64 61. Fifth seed Johanna Larsson was then seen off with the loss of five games and then a semifinal spot was secured with a 62 64 defeat of Stefanie Voegele.
Puig was getting into a rhythm now and another straight sets win over Slovakia’s Magdalena Rybarikova carried her into the final.
Her opponent in the title match was the number two seed from Russia, and former WTA world number two, Elena Vesnina.
The Russian seed lost out to Puig in a tense first set which finished 75 but, a proven Grand Slam player particularly in doubles where she is a three time finalist, struck back 61 in the second set and was seemingly a sure thing to push on and take the title. Puig had other ideas though.
The deciding set played out much like the first as both players were looking to land their biggest ITF Pro Circuit title of their careers. For Vesnina, a win would bring her a first singles title win at any level for over nine years!
In a set lasting twelve games, it was Puig who would snatch glory and win 75 16 75 to record her second title triumph of the month.
Following this title win, Puig travelled straight to Nantes in the west of France for a $50,000 tournament, a tournament which she came into on the back of a new WTA career high singles ranking of 121.
Unfortunately, reaching a new career high would be the only thing she would be celebrating as the month ended with a first round defeat at the hands of Polish qualifier Magda Linette in a very close match which finished 64 67(3) 64 to the Polish 20-year old.
Despite this, the month will remain one that will be looked back on fondly as Puig recorded two massive title wins and climbed to within touching distance of the WTA top 100.