In a rematch of last summer’s historic Olympic final, revenge was in the air for top seed Angelique Kerber, who came out on top in a highly-anticipated clash with Monica Puig, dispatching the Puerto Rican, 6-2, 6-3, to reach her first quarterfinal at the Dubai Duty-Free Tennis Championships in five appearances.
Kerber, Hungry for Revenge, Clinches Decisive Opening Set
After trading blows early to start the much-anticipated rematch, it was unsurprisingly Kerber who would get the first look at a break point and sure enough, she would make no mistake, capitalizing on an untimely error off the racquet of Puig to move ahead by an early break at the second time of asking. Continuing to cruise on serve, the former world number one quickly asserted her authority on Puig, consolidating the break with the signature patterns of play that saw her win two Grand Slam titles last season.
From there, after trading another pair of holds, it was Kerber who was able to strike again; Puig’s errors coming thick and fast to hand the German the insurance break at a chance to serve for the opener at 5-2. However, Puig, who struggled to even win points in Kerber’s first three service games, looked to finally be breathing life into the opening set, quickly giving herself three opportunities to recover one of the breaks at 0-40. But Kerber refused to surrender, even under the relentless pressure of the Puerto Rican’s heavy hitting, showcasing her world-class defensive skills to reel off five points in a row and seal the opening set, 6-2, in less than half an hour.
Keen Kerber Avenges Her Olympic Defeat, Ousts Puig
After a disappointing opening set from her point of view, it appeared that Puig was keen on taking this match the distance, opening the second set with a commanding hold of her own and even getting a few early looks at another break point. But that would be the last of the Puerto Rican’s dominance on the night as Kerber would respond in emphatic style, digging herself out of an early hole to draw level at one-game-apiece. Once there, in another case of déjà-vu, she would make Puig rue her missed chances with a third break of the match—this one putting her a set and a break to the good.
From there, the set would go with serve with the receiver having very few chances to even get a look at creating a break point, let alone convert one. In arguably the most pivotal moment of the second set, Kerber, just two games away from the finish line at 4-3, found herself in serious danger of surrendering the early break after falling down 15-40. Despite some fierce hitting from the racquet of the Puerto Rican number one, the German’s resistance refused to be broken and was ultimately strong enough to save both break points en route to a crucial hold for 5-3.
The failure to take those two break points seemed to be the final nail in the coffin for Puig as she would eventually surrender to the resistance of the former world number one, gifting the match on her 25th unforced error, while Kerber made less than half as many.
Next Up for Kerber: Ana Konjuh
Awaiting Kerber in the quarterfinals is another young gun in former junior world number one Ana Konjuh, who has been having a dream week in Dubai, with wins over Zhang Shuai, Samantha Stosur and most recently Elena Vesnina to boot. In the pair’s only ever meeting, it was the German who came out on top in two close sets en route to her championship-winning run at the Bank of the West Classic in 2015.