Puerto Rican number one Monica Puig continued her great start to 2016 in impressive style, defeating home favourite Marcela Zacarias 6-2, 7-5 to book her place in the second round of the 2016 Abierto Monterrey Afirme, where she will meet France's Pauline Parmentier who upset third seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in her first round clash.
Puig Comes Out All Guns Blazing
Despite never meeting at an official WTA event, both women were well aware of the dangers the other presented and it was Puig who raced out of the blocks, building on an early hold with a break of serve to lead 2-0. Not to be outdone, Zacarias showed why she is one of Mexico's most promising rising stars, breaking straight back and saving a couple break points en route to holding and restoring parity at 2-all. However, from there, it was all Monica Puig.
Beginning to find her rhythm, Puig responded with an emphatic hold at love, and followed that up by breaking for a second time. This time, she would go on to successfully consolidate the one break cushion, thus opening up a 5-2 lead. While Puig continued to impose her big-hitting game on Zacarias, the Mexican number one couldn't seem to find any answers, and it was only a matter of time until the Puerto Rican number one wrapped up the opening set 6-2 in just over half an hour.
Zacarias Cracks Under Pressure; Puig Safely Through to Round Two
The second set, in contrast to the first, was a much more hard-fought affair with both women having their fair share of chances to edge their nose in front, but they just couldn't seem to build on their successes once they had taken control of the set.
The second frame began with a quadruplet of breaks but this time, it was Zacarias who drew first blood, breaking at the first time of asking to open a 3-2 lead. However, the Mexican number one was unable to consolidate the early break, thus allowing Puig to break right back to restore parity at 3-all. Despite the efforts of Zacarias, Puig remained calm under pressure, utilizing her big serve and groundstrokes to full effect en route to saving a break point and holding for 4-3. Now with the momentum on her side, the world number 65 continued to apply the pressure from the receiving end, which resulted in yet another break for the Puerto Rican and an opportunity to serve for the match. With her back up against the wall, Zacarias played some of her best tennis when it mattered most and though it must be said that Puig tightened up under the pressure, the world number 237 took full advantage by recovering the single break held against her and soon leveled the second set at 5-all not long thereafter.
But Puig, who is ranked more than 170 spots higher than her Mexican counterpart, began to show her experience in the key and ultimately decisive moments of this first round encounter. Keeping her cool while continuing to play her aggressive brand of tennis despite the circumstances, the 22-year-old responded with a hold of her own to go up 6-5. Suddenly, the pressure was back on Zacarias. Despite a number of ups and downs throughout the second set, it was Puig who seized her opportunities when they presented themselves, converting her first match point to earn a hard-fought 6-2, 7-5 victory over the 21-year-old Mexican.
Next Up for Puig: Pauline Parmentier
In the second round, the Puerto Rican will face Frenchwoman Pauline Parmentier -- almost eight years her senior. Despite the noticeable age difference, the pair have met once before in 2011 on the ITF Professional Circuit, where it was a case of youth trumping experience in straight sets.