CHARLESTON, SC, USA - Monica Puig put on a performance reminiscent of her run to the 2016 Olympic Gold medal on Friday night, dismissing Australian Open semifinalist Danielle Collins, 6-3, 6-2 to reach the Volvo Car Open semifinals.
"It feels great," she said after the match. "It's been a long time coming. I haven't really had many good results strung together in a long time. It's been a minute since I've had four matches in a row won. So I'm really happy with that.
"But that being said, there's another match to be played tomorrow, and I just gotta continue to put my head down and keep fighting and keep believing in myself. It's not over yet."
Playing her first quarterfinal since she reached the last eight at the Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open in October, Puig was peerless for much of the match - particularly off the backhand side - against Collins, sealing the No.11 seed in 94 minutes on Volvo Car Stadium.
"I think just the composure has been the real factor, because in those moments when you're ahead, you want to stay ahead; and when it's tight, you need to stay in there and just keep fighting. So just in those moments, just taking my time, breathing, staying present.
"It's really difficult, especially when you want to win a match. It's easy to think ahead, so when you stay present and just think about what you need to do every single point, it really makes a difference."
Collins defeated Puig in their last meeting at the Miami Open - en route to her breakout semifinal finish last spring - but was on the back foot early on against the Puerto Rican star, who broke serve twice and saved all three break points on her own serve to capture the opening set.
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Puig continued her dominant display in the second set, racing out to a 5-1 lead and holding a pair of match points as she served for the match.
Undaunted, Collins saved both and looked to kickstart a comeback as she broke back but Puig ultimately proved too strong, converting the match on her third opportunity to join former World No.1 Caroline Wozniacki, Petra Martic, and next opponent Madison Keys in the final four.
In all, Puig struck a stunning 29 winners to just 18 unforced errors; while Collins hit 15 winners of her own, she struggled to match her rival's consistency on the night, making 21 unforced errors in total.
Looking ahead to Saturday's semifinal, Puig has played Keys four times, and though she has won two of their three clay court matches, the American won their most recent encounter at the 2016 French Open.
"I think the last time I played her was at the French Open a couple of years ago, completely different match, different kind of surface because this clay is different from red clay, but two completely different players from what we were back then. We've had some great results, playing some great tennis."
Keys scored a first win over good friend Sloane Stephens in a rematch of their 2017 US Open final earlier in the afternoon.
"I want to enjoy the win tonight and then kind of get ready and prepared for tomorrow, but I'm not expecting an easy match. I'm going to go out there, put my head down, keep working like I've been doing this whole week, and whatever happens happens, but I'm really pleased with how I'm going about my business on the court.