INDIAN WELLS, CA, USA – Monica Puig upset the up-and-coming Beatriz Haddad Maia in the BNP Paribas Open as she claimed a 6-3, 7-6(3) victory over the Brazilian.
The reigning Olympic champion, the current WTA World No. 83, claimed a single break to claim the opening set before recovering from 4-0 down to claim the second and march through to the second round of the competition, where she will face No.21 see Anastasija Sevastova.
It proved a thrilling first meeting between the players, with plenty of thrills and spills, particularly in a devilishly exciting second set.
Speaking after her success, Puig revealed how she coped with the adversity she faced: "I tried to stay positive and focus on my game and what I needed to do out there. I'm really happy I'm starting to find my form again."
There are a number of factors the 24-year-old believes have pushed her back to her best.
"I took some time off after Australia - I didn't go to Doha or Dubai - changed racquets, which was pretty huge, and took some time to get back into the groove," she said.
"It was an instant click with the racquet I'm using now. I'm happy with what it brought to my game and what it's helping me with. It's brought me confidence on the court.
Her serve was indeed solid in the opening set, particularly behind her opening delivery, as she profited from some loose play from an opponent who had not previous been defeated by a player outside the Top 40 in 2018.
It was, however, in the second set that the fireworks really began. Puig began to lose here were on her own delivery, while her opponent started to find her range and raced into a 4-0 advantage.
The Puerto Rica managed to get on the board but found herself up against it as the Brazilian then reciprocated by holding her serve to move to within a single game of the decider. Given four opportunities, though, including two with the balls in hand, she floundered.
Both players held comfortably to take the set into a tiebreak, which proved equally dramatic.
Puig edged ahead with a minibreak before claiming the first point behind her own delivery. Just as Haddad Maia seemed to be fading, she hit back by claiming successive points but was again wayward on 2-2 to had the initiative back to her opponent, who crunched away a volley on the next point.
At the changeover, there was a lengthy delay, heightening the sense of drama, allowing Haddad Maia to strike back against the head, yet an outrageous defensive shot from Puig caught the line to nudge her decisively ahead.
It proved to be the straw the broke her opponents' back, as she claimed the next two points to move through.
Now the prospect of facing Sevastova - another player she has never previously met - is one that excites her.