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Getting To Know... Monica Puig

For too long tennis has lived in the shadow of baseball and boxing in Puerto Rico. But, if Monica Puig has anything to say about it, this may not be the case for much longer.

Published January 03, 2013 03:14

Getting To Know... Monica Puig
Monica Puig

BRISBANE, Australia - Confidence is an important quality in the make-up of a tennis player, and it's a quality that Monica Puig possesses in spades. And with good reason.

After finishing 2012 with a flurry of wins and a couple of ITF titles to boot, the 19-year-old from Puerto Rico has started 2012 with a bang, making it through qualifying at the Brisbane International, before coming within a handful of points of upsetting World No.5 Angelique Kerber in the second round.

Now, she has sights set on the top, and judging from her 15 minutes with wtatennis.com, she's in a hurry…

Can you tell us about your home town?
MP:
I'm from San Juan in Puerto Rico. It's a very tropical island, very family orientated and full of lots of very nice people.

How did you start playing tennis?
MP:
Well, I always used to copy my brother and whatever he did. If he did karate, I did karate. If he did baseball, I did baseball. And I did those until I got bored, and then my mom suggested tennis and I started taking clinics and started liking it right away.

Can you tell us a little bit about the rest of your family?
MP:
Well, my mom travels with me, which is a big help because I don't want to be alone and have nothing to do so she's always there to be with me. My dad's at home - he's a mechanical engineer - and he's obviously following me from home, so I miss him a lot while I'm on tour but he understands what I'm doing and supports me. My brother used to play baseball in high school and now he's doing aeronautical engineering at the University of Central Florida. He's 22 and he's got a really good job and a really good position - so he's doing pretty well for himself!

Can you tell us about your coaching history and current setup?
MP:
I started off in Miami, just at local clubs. Then I really started to take it seriously when I turned 15 and started with my coach I have right now, Alain De Vos, who's from Belgium. Since then it has been five years of really hard work and we've gotten to know each other very well and it's going great at the moment!

Who were your tennis idols growing up?
MP:
I liked Jennifer Capriati a lot when I was little. But, my mom named me after Monica Seles so I also kind of liked her! I didn't watch that much men's tennis growing up, but I do now, and I really like watching Nadal, Djokovic and obviously Federer. Now, I think I idolize the men more, because I'm competing against the women and view them as rivals, rather than players I look up to.

How would you describe your game?
MP:
I think I'm an aggressive baseliner, but also I can transition and come to the net and finish points off there. I wouldn't say that I have that many weaknesses - all I know is that I have a lot of strengths and everything in my game pretty much complements each other.

What has been your best tennis memory so far?
MP:
I think I have a lot! I won the silver medal in the Pan American Games and representing Puerto Rico was really special to me. I also won my first ITF $50K and $100K back-to-back in France at the end of last year, so those weeks are also pretty special. This week - qualifying and then winning my first match at a WTA event - has also been really memorable.

What is your favorite surface and tournament?
MP:
Well, I haven't played too much on grass, so I can't really judge grass, but I really like hard and clay. Hard is good because I'm pretty aggressive, but as I'm quick and fast around the court, clay is also a very good surface for me. I like them all!

What are your short and long-term goals?
MP:
A lot of people might call me crazy, but I want to finish this year in the Top 20. I know that's a very high goal, but I'm just taking one day at a time. I'm not in a rush to get anywhere and I'm going to go at my own pace, but I think I have what it takes and the potential to do it. My game is ready, my mind is ready and I'm ready to work hard and just focus on living the dream one day at a time.

How do you relax away from the court?
MP:
When I'm off the court, I just try to be as normal as I possibly can - which is not really that easy, but I manage somehow! Since I'm from a small island, I like the beach a lot and whenever I have time I go. But because I'm away from home so often, when I'm in Puerto Rico, I like to spend a lot of time at home, relaxing, spending time with the family and my dog - which I miss the most!

How far did you go in your education?
MP:
I graduated this year and I was really relieved to have done that! It took a lot of stress off of me and allowed me to play better towards the end of the year. I'm really glad I finished high school because it was something that was a high priority for me to give me a back-up plan if, God forbid, something goes wrong in my tennis.

Do you have a favorite film or book?
MP:
I'm reading the Hobbit right now and that book is really good. I love books but I also really like to write myself. If you give me a pencil and paper, I can start writing about something forever and I'm just really gifted in how I put my words on paper and really like doing it.

If you could meet anyone in the world who would you like it to be?
MP:
I'm really obsessed with Glee right now, so I think the cast of Glee!

If you weren't a tennis player what would you be doing now?
MP:
I think it would have to be something that involved a sport, because I'm really competitive. I think swimming is fun, diving also, maybe gymnastics. Definitely something individual because I like doing something where you're the one recognized for it!

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