Volvo Car Open: Puig downs Sabalenka in straight sets
Monica Puig was the better player on court as she earned a huge win at the Volvo Car Open on Thursday.
Her performance on clay was at a level that Aryna Sabalenka couldn’t keep up with as she was eliminated 6-2, 7-5 on the Althea Gibson Clubcourt at the Family Circle Tennis Center. It was the first quarterfinal for the Puerto Rican this season and the first since Wuhan last year.
The transition onto the clay courts has been positive for the Puerto Rican, with her winning her last two matches in straight sets. With the recent win over the quick paced Sofia Kenin, she went into her first meeting against the Belarussian with a lot of confidence.
Sabalenka had to put a lot of time in taking down Kateryna Kozlova, who took the first set to require the need for a comeback. Despite getting the victory, a lot of effort was put into it as she struggled with her second serve throughout. With the need for improvement, the 20-year-old had a real challenge going past Puig.
She quickly found herself in a decent sized hole as Puig broke the Belarussian before consolidating with a hold in the second game. The double break for the 25-year-old against the third seed signalled trouble for Sabalenka.
She tried to break in the fourth game forcing deuce against Puig before a hold on the AD point stopped her opponent’s winning streak. The win was just what Sabalenka needed as she opened the throttle to gain three break points on the Puerto Rican's serve, but all was lost when she went to deuce and saw her deficit widen.
Sabalenka managed to gain another win on her serve but Puig meant business as she made the eighth game a complete shutout gaining three set points to take first in 31 minutes.
A early break in the second set went in favour of the Puerto Rican, that took some effort to attain. She was denied the early break point but found the winner to lead early against Sabalenka. Consolidating with a hold in the second game gave her a solid footing, but in the third game, a serious turnaround for the 20-year-old happened. Sabalenka played defense by saving three break points before getting two chances to get on the board. The third seed leveled at two-all to let Puig know that it would no longer be one-way traffic.
Puig didn’t get that message as she continued with her onslaught scoring another hold of serve in the sixth game to sit two games away from the final eight. Sabalenka would not allow her that as she broke the 25-year-old before consolidating an important hold to level at four-all. The Belorussian found a way to get ahead of Puig for the first time but getting a chance at forcing a third set was denied by Puigm who struck back with two straight games to offer her a chance to serve for the match.
Sabalenka saw the door closing as Puig reached triple match point to win it with her third ace to seal an important moment of her season as she advanced to a quarterfinal. It was another successful match for her that took one hour and 26 minutes to complete. leaving Sabalenka in her wake.
“It’s been a while since I won a few matches in a row so I was just happy that I maintained my composure and kept believing in what I was going throughout the whole match and just closed it out in the strongest way possible,” said Puig during her on-court interview. “Things were going so well at that point when I was up a break in the second set and she started coming back, but luckily I was able to finish it.”
With confidence building in the 25-year-old, she’ll try to bring the heat against the winner between Danielle Collins and Kaia Kanepi on Friday.