NEW HAVEN, CT, USA -- Qualifier Monica Puig of Puerto Rico advanced to the quarterfinals of the Connecticut Open on Wednesday, after a 6-4, 6-3 victory over Anett Kontaveit of Estonia.
"I know that [Kontaveit's] a tricky player," Puig told the press, following her win. "She plays very aggressive, and she can get the first jump on every single ball that she can. I just had to try and stay focused and concentrate on what I could do best."
"I just had to stay in there, hang in there, fight for every point, and sooner or later, the window was gonna open, and I had to find my opportunity," Puig continued.
Puig, the 2016 Olympic champion, successfully made it through a WTA qualifying field for the first time this season, and has taken advantage since that point, moving past her good friend Kontaveit in the second round in one hour and 24 minutes.
"The qualifying was good for me, to get three matches and keep the rhythm going," Puig admitted. "In the main draw, I tried to continue to play as solid as possible, and just get better with each and every match."
— WTA (@WTA) August 22, 2018
The sets were each closely contested, with Puig and Kontaveit having nearly identical amounts of winners and unforced errors in the match. But Puig was able to come through in straight sets by taking the important points on her opponent's serve, as she broke the Estonian six times, while Kontaveit could break Puig's serve only four times.
World No.72 Puig will face No.2 seed Caroline Garcia in the quarterfinals. Garcia moved into the final eight on Tuesday after the Frenchwoman dodged an upset bid from Belarusian Aliaksandra Sasnovich, ultimately prevailing 6-4 in the final set after nearly three hours of play.
"[Garcia's] obviously risen to the top of the game in just a few months, since last year," said Puig. "She’s definitely hot right now and playing some great tennis. It’ll be a battle, and I’m really happy with the way I’ve been playing this week so far, so I just want to keep it going."
The breaks of serve came fast and furious in the opening set, as the receiver took six of the first eight games en route to a 4-4 deadlock. But Puig was able to buck the trend and hold for 5-4, putting pressure on Kontaveit to serve to stay in the set after dropping three of her first four service games.
Indeed, Kontaveit faltered, quickly falling behind 0-40 and giving Puig triple set point. The Estonian rallied with some powerful play to save all three and push the game back to deuce, but an overhead miscue that clipped the netcord and went wide gave Puig a fourth opportunity to break. There, the Puerto Rican sealed the one-set lead with a glorious backhand winner.
— WTA (@WTA) August 23, 2018
Kontaveit took control of the second set in the opening game, quickly breaking an error-prone Puig for a 1-0 lead, and holding onto that advantage up to 3-2. But in that game, Puig cracked solid service returns to reach triple break point, and a strong forehand by the qualifier forced an error from Kontaveit on her first opportunity, leveling the set at 3-3.
The Estonian used her backhand to garner two break points in the next game, in hopes of reclaiming her break advantage, but Puig was undeterred and served her way out of trouble to hold for 4-3.
Puig came through in the clutch at the end of the second set, crushing a backhand service return for a winner to reach break point at 4-3, and another backhand forced an error from Kontaveit to convert the chance. Serving at 5-3, Puig moved through her final service game to take the victory.