Top seed Angelique Kerber earned a decisive victory over reigning Olympic Gold medalist Monica Puig, advancing into the quarterfinals of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
WTA Staff

DUBAI, UAE - Top seed Angelique Kerber came out on top of a much-anticipated Olympic rematch against Monica Puig, dispatching the Puerto Rican star, 6-2, 6-3 to reach her first quarterfinal at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

"It's tough to play against Monica," she said during her on-court interview. "I know we we played a very good match in Rio and she deserved to win in the end; she played an unbelievable match. Today I was really happy with my performance; I was trying to stay focused and play my game. I'm happy to be in the next round here!"

"I was really not thinking too much about our final in Rio, because it was a completely totally different match than today," she later elaborated in press.

"Tonight it was a new match, new challenge for me. So I was focusing more on the day today than looking back to the last match."

Puig is in the midst of playing her best tennis since capturing Puerto Rico's first gold medal, having reached the semifinals of the Qatar Total Open just last week. But Kerber made the best of a difficult draw to pull off some of her own best on Wednesday night, hitting 14 winners to just 12 unforced errors in the 65 minute match.

"I was trying to keep focusing on the next point, serve and move as well as I could."

The unseeded Puig nonetheless acquitted herself well on the center court, hitting 20 winners, but a combination of 25 unforced errors and a zero for five break point conversion rate proved her undoing. Kerber, by contrast, broke serve four times, including on match point in the last game.

"I never played so well here, so I think things have changed a little bit this year. I feel really good on the court and I'm looking forward to playing my first quarterfinal."

It's been a tough start to the season for Kerber, who fell in her opening match in Doha last week to Daria Kasatkina - her second loss to the young Russian this season - but admitted to feeling under the weather during the tour's stormy week in Qatar.

"I was a little bit sick last week. So that's why I'm happy that I found my rhythm again. Yeah, I'm enjoying the tennis on court again.

"I was not sure how I was feeling on court because of the last week, and that's why that was a little bit different.

"I was trying to just go out here, to make the transition from like I was practicing to the match, because I was practicing good in the last few weeks and also in the last few months."

Up next for the former World No.1 is Croatian teen Ana Konjuh, who recovered from a set and a break down to upset No.8 seed Elena Vesnina, 3-6, 6-4, 7-6(4); Kerber won their only previous meeting back in 2015 at the Bank of the West Classic.

"She plays well; we've played a few matches in the past and I know it'll be another tough one, but I think I'm ready to go out and win my next match."

Into the last eight in Dubai, Kerber is just three wins away from wresting hte top spot back from Australian Open champion Serena Williams, but you won't catch Kerber thinking too much about that prospect.

"I'm taking things match by match. I'm just trying to focus on playing good tennis and enjoying this week."