Monica Puig continued her sensational form in the desert on Saturday afternoon, defeating 28th seed Anna Karolina Schmiedlova 6-1, 6-2 in an hour and 16 minutes to book her place in the third round of the 2016 BNP Paribas Open. Puig will now play fellow WTA Rising Star Daria Kasatkina for a spot in the last 16.
Puig Rolls Through Opening Set
Having just lost one game to the Slovak in their previous meeting, Puig wasted no time in initiating the first break right off the bat, though it took her four tries before she could break in the opening game. From there, the Puerto Rican number one consolidated the early break at love, sending a clear statement of intent to Schmiedlova. The 28th seed was noticeably struggling with her timing off the ground, and with Puig refusing to let up, it was only a matter of time until the Puerto Rican broke for a second time to open up a 3-0 lead.
Not long thereafter, things quickly went from bad to worse for the Slovak number one. With Puig gaining the upper hand in the majority of the rallies, Schmiedlova found it difficult to counter her opponent's relatively flat ground strokes, even if she changed her court positioning. Puig, on the other hand, was ruthless from the back of the court and was keen to not let Schmiedlova settle into any rhythm whatsoever. As a result, the 22-year-old Puerto Rican went on to consolidate the double break before two untimely double faults from her Slovak counterpart gifted her yet another break -- this time to give her a 5-0 lead.
With Puig looking to be in cruise control of this opening set, Schmiedlova began to swing more freely, knowing she had nothing to lose from this point forward. With the help of some good fortune, the 28th seed saved four set points in the following game before converting her first break point to recover one of the three breaks against her. All of a sudden, it appeared that getting on the board could have been the springboard Schmiedlova needed in order to make inroads into the match.
However, all hopes of a comeback were quickly washed away by a zoned in Puig, who was unfazed by Schmiedlova's late resistance, in the following game. On her fifth set point, the Puerto Rican didn't even need to touch a ball as her Slovak counterpart's miseries on serve continued -- a double fault handing Puig the opening set 6-1.
Puig Battles Her Way into Round Three
The second set began much like the first as Puig continued to assert her authority on this second round encounter, backing up an early hold with her fourth break of the match to lead by a set and 2-0. In the game that followed suit, Schmiedlova was slowly beginning to find her rhythm but much to her dismay, she was unable to convert her lone break point in the third game, thus allowing the Puerto Rican to consolidate the early break. To the credit of Schmiedlova, she continued to fight and refused to back down regardless of the score line, but Puig was the more tactically astute on the big points and was eventually rewarded with a set and 4-0 lead when she broke at the fourth time of asking.
But as the set progressed, one just got the sense that Schmiedlova was on the verge of making a breakthrough on the receiving end. Having lost just a couple of points in both games that could have easily changed the momentum of this match, the 28th seed continued to use the same strategy while swinging more freely, and it paid off. Breaking at the second time of asking, the 21-year-old had recovered one of the two breaks and followed it up with an impressive hold to reduce the deficit to just 4-2.
Now with the pressure back on the shoulders of the 22-year-old Puerto Rican, Puig managed to muster a hold when it mattered most, consequently opening up a 5-2 advantage. That hold of serve seemed to stop the rot, and the world number 67 was now back in the driver's seat. With Schmiedlova's late-match resistance beginning to fade away, Puig's power and consistency from the back of the court ultimately proved too much for the Slovak to handle. As yet another unforced error flew off the racquet of the 21-year-old Slovak, the Puerto Rican number one booked her place in round three with a 6-1, 6-2 victory.
"Really happy with the way I played," Puig told VAVEL USA after the match. "Feeling solid and loving playing here."
The 22-year-old will look to continue her great week in Indian Wells on Monday when she faces fellow WTA Rising Star Daria Kasatkina, whom she has never met in her seven years on the professional tour.