On a hot and humid Monday afternoon at the Foro Italico, Puerto Rican qualifier Monica Puig secured her second top 20 win of 2016, ousting 15th seed Elina Svitolina with a 6-1, 4-6, 6-1 victory to book her place in the second round of the 2016 Internazionali BNL d'Italia. Puig will now play the winner of the match between Kristina Mladenovic and Jelena Ostapenko for a place in the last 16.
Puig Cruises to One-Set Lead
After exchanging holds to open the match, it was Puig who drew first blood, capitalizing on her third break point of the set with a wonderous forehand down the line return winner to take a 2-1 lead. From there, Puig showed no signs of slowing down; an impressive hold allowing her to consolidate the early break, saving a break point in the process.
Things quickly went from bad to worse from there for Svitolina, who was struggling to keep up with Puig's sheer power and the boisterous Italian crowd, who were cheering for an Italian on the next court over. Taking full advantage, the Puerto Rican number one wasted no time in doubling her advantage, breaking to take a commanding 4-1 lead. This pattern continued for the remainder of the set as the world number 57 continued to impose her powerful game on the Ukrainian, eventually sealing the opening set 6-1 in 34 minutes with a big crosscourt backhand.
Svitolina Fights Back, Forces Decider
The second set was a much closer affair with both women trading blows from the back of the court in impressive fashion. After the first four games went with serve, it was Svitolina--this time--who made the first move, breaking at the first time of asking as a Puig backhand sailed past the baseline. However, Puig refused to go away, and broke straight back to regain parity at 3-all moments later.
In the pair of games that followed, both women were able to fight off two break points each and as the exchanges got longer, the quality of tennis from both women improved significantly. But at 4-all, Svitolina finally made the breakthrough, claiming the ultimately decisive break before taking the second set 6-4--on her third try--in 49 minutes.
Puig Storms Away with Decider, Books Place in Round Two
After a lengthy second set, Puig quickly gained the upper hand in the decider, breaking at the third time of asking in game four to take a crucial 3-1 lead. In the game that followed suit, the qualifier managed to consolidate the break, saving a break point in the process, to put herself within two games of the finish line.
In the following game, Svitolina went up 40-0 on her own serve, but failed to convert her chances and was made to pay as Puig reeled off five points in a row to earn herself the insurance break, and at least two chances to serve for the match leading 5-1.
In the end, Puig proved she needed no second invitation, closing out a very impressive 6-1, 4-6, 6-1 victory over Svitolina, avenging her defeat to the Ukrainian in their meeting at Indian Wells two years ago. With this victory, the Puerto Rican is projected to break back into the top 50 in the provisional rankings, and will face either Kristina Mladenovic or Jelena Ostapenko for a place in the last 16.