Rio 2016: Day-8. Monica Puig Makes History

Voice Over Andy Taylor. Rio 2016. Day-8 Results

Monica Puig made history on Day-8 of the Rio 2016 Summer Games: She became the first athlete representing Puerto Rico to win Gold; and the first to medal at the Summer Games in 68-years. Previously, the island nation had won 8 medals – six Bronze and two Silver. She is also the first female athlete representing Puerto Rico to find the podium. Amazing accomplishments. Incredible story.

Puerto Rico’s Gigi Fernandez earned Doubles Gold alongside Mary Jo Fernandez in ’92 and ’96 while representing the United States.

Her opponent, Angelique Kerber, added another accolade to a remarkable season: Summer Games Silver Medalist. The World #2 won her first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open in January. She’d go-on to reach the Semifinals in Miami and Charleston, win her 9th-career title in Stuttgart, reach her second career Major Final at Wimbledon…and last week, was a Semifinalist at the Rogers Cup in Montreal. Next week, should Kerber win Cincinnati, she will displace Serena Williams as the #1 Player in the World.

Saturday was a big day for the Czech Republic, as well. Two-time Wimbledon Champion Petra Kvitova defeated Madison Keys to earn Bronze; while Lucie Safarova and Barbora Strycova teamed to win Doubles Bronze over teammates Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka.

In the Men’s Singles Semifinals, Juan Martin Del Potro extended his improbable Rio run – defeating 2008 Gold Medalist Rafael Nadal in a 3rd-set tie-break. It was Nadal’s first-ever Men’s Singles defeat at the Summer Games, ending the south-paw’s streak at 10-matches. Nadal will face Kei Nishikori in tomorrow’s Bronze Medal match. Kei fell in straight-sets to 2012 Gold Medalist Andy Murray in Saturday’s first match on Center Court.

Team USA has plenty to proud of after Saturday’s play in Rio. It will be an all-USA Mixed Doubles Gold Medal match tomorrow. Venus Williams and Rajeev Ram (a last-second addition after the Bryan Brothers’ withdrawal from the Games) defeated India’s Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna 10-3 in a match tie-break. Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Jack Sock earned a spot in the Final with a win over Lucie Hradecka and Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic.

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  • (USA) V.Williams/R.Ram def (IND) S.Mirza/R.Bopanna 2-6, 6-2 [10-3]
  • (USA) B.Mattek-Sands/Sock def (CZE) L.Hradecka/R.Stepanek 6-4, 7-6(3)
  • (CZE) Petra Kvitova def (USA) Madison Keys 7-5, 2-6, 6-2

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[2] (GBR) Andy Murray def [4] (JPN) Kei Nishikori 6-1, 6-4

Kei Nishikori was out of gas. 16-hours after going the distance with Gael Monfils, winning 7-6(6) in the deciding set, he found himself back on court — this time facing the World #2, two-time Wimbledon Champion and 2012 Gold Medalist Andy Murray; a spot in the Rio 2016 Gold Medal Match on the line. It was a “huge ask” after such a demanding, 3-hour grind with the French showman.

Murray was edgy early, as he has been throughout the tournament. Nothing has come easy for the Scot. In the 3rd-Round, he lost nine consecutive games to Fognini before turning it around. Steve Johnson took him to a deciding tie-break in the Quarterfinals. On Saturday, after breaking to go up 3-1, Murray was warned for a time-violation. An early mental unraveling wasn’t out of the question. Thankfully for Andy, Kei was too exhausted to capitalize. Murray took the first-set 6-1.

In the second, Murray was still pissed at chair umpire Carlos Ramos, but continued to roll. On serve during the first sit-down, Andy’s verbal jabs at Ramos earned him another code violation for unsportsmanlike conduct. To his credit, Andy focused-up between the lines, earning another break before the changeover. While Nishikori managed to erase two match points, Murray held-through – overcoming his frustration with Ramos – to reach his second consecutive Gold Medal match.

Andy Murray’s Road to the Gold Medal Match:

  • NEXT: vs (ARG) Juan Martin Del Potro
  • SF: def (JPN) Kei Nishikori 6-1, 6-4
  • QF: def (USA) Steve Johnson 6-0, 4-6, 7-6(2)
  • 3R: def (ITA) Fabio Fognini 6-1, 2-6, 6-3
  • 2R: def (ARG) Juan Monaco 6-3, 6-1
  • 1R: def (SRB) Viktor Troicki 6-3, 6-2

Kei Nishikori’s Road to the Bronze Medal Match:

  • NEXT: vs (ESP) Rafael Nadal
  • SF: — (GBR) Andy Murray 1-6, 4-6
  • QF: def (FRA) Gael Monfils 7-6(4), 4-6, 7-6(6)
  • 3R: def (SVK) Andrej Martin 6-2, 6-2
  • 2R: def (AUS) John Millman 7-6(4), 6-4
  • 1R: def (ESP) Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-2, 6-4

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(ARG) Juan Martin Del Potro def (ESP) Rafael Nadal 5-7, 6-4, 7-6(5)

How lucky is Rio 2016? Back in January, not many could imagine that this sentence would even exist: “Today, Juan Martin Del Potro defeated Rafael Nadal to reach the Rio 2016 Men’s Singles Gold Medal match.” Not only does the sentence exist, it’s fact.

In a match that would rival Del Potro’s Round-1 upset of Novak Djokovic, the Argentine’s legion of fans erupted as he collapsed to the court, victorious after a deciding-set tie-break. It was an emotional punctuation of the message Juan has been sending since his arrival in Rio: “I am back. And unapologetically, I am at the top of my game.” Thanks to the ranking system, few other tournaments on the ATP Tour could have given Del Potro this opportunity – to take-on the world’s elite, to gauge his fitness, to determine the stability of his wrist. Poetically, the first Summer Games ever to be held in South America – right next door to Argentina – provided the ultimate opportunity to deliver his message. He seized the moment.

Despite earning a break in game-1, Del Potro lost Saturday’s first-set 5-7. In the second, he broke before the first change-over, then protected serve the rest of the way to level the match. Set-3 was insane, with an even crazier tie-break. At 4-all, exhaustion setting in, the two traded breaks. Rafa then fell behind 0-40. Incredibly, he erased all three break-points and delivered the most clutch hold of the match. In the deciding tie-break, Del Potro jumped ahead 3-0 and never relented the lead. The punishing forehand was — punishing. An ace gave him two match points. Rafa erased the first with an amazing display of hands at the net, but Juan was too good when it mattered – stealing the next point for the win.

The Argentine collapsed and sprawled out on the court. As we announced his name post-handshake, Del Potro dove into a group of court-side Argentine fans – creating one of the most indelible images of the Rio 2016 Olympic Tennis event…

Juan Martin Del Potro’s Road to the Gold Medal Match:

  • NEXT: vs (GBR) Andy Murray
  • SF: def (ESP) Rafael Nadal 5-7, 6-4, 7-6(5)
  • QF: def (ESP) Roberto Bautista Agut 7-5, 7-6(4)
  • 3R: def (JPN) Taro Daniel 6-7(4), 6-1, 6-2
  • 2R: def (POR) Joao Sousa 6-3, 1-6, 6-3
  • 1R: def (SRB) Novak Djokovic 7-6(4), 7-6(2)

Rafael Nadal’s Road to the Bronze Medal Match:

  • NEXT: vs (JPN) Kei Nishikori
  • SF: — (ARG) Juan Martin Del Potro 7-5, 4-6, 6-7(5)
  • QF: def (BRA) Thomaz Bellucci 2-6, 6-4, 6-2
  • 3R: def (FRA) Gilles Simon 7-6(5), 6-3
  • 2R: def (ITA) Andreas Seppi 6-3, 6-3
  • 1R: def (ARG) Federico Delbonis 6-2, 6-1

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(PUR) Monica Puig def [2] (GER) Angelique Kerber 6-4, 4-6, 6-1

Before today, Puerto Rico’s Monica Puig had never reached the Quarterfinals of a Grand Slam. Now, she’s a Gold Medalist — and more confident than ever: “I knew it. If I didn’t win, it would hurt me for four long years…I played with all of my heart and soul. I had enormous faith in myself. It just raised my game to a whole new level.”

Angelique Kerber, after winning her first Summer Games Medal with a Silver finish: “I didn’t lose. She beat me. She played close to perfection, made very few mistakes. She was everywhere. It was impressive.”

The two traded breaks to start the match. Puig would win the set with break #2. In the second, Kerber struck first in game-1. Puig broke back to level the set at 4-all, but Kerber jumped ahead again in the next game. Down 4-5, Puig erased four set-points before Kerber finally served it out. All even after two, Monica Puig absolutely dominated set-3. In less than 20-minutes, she was up 5-0, eventually making history 6-4, 4-6, 6-1: Monica Puig, after the match: “It’s amazing, I’m so proud to be part of history. It hasn’t hit me just yet, but I’m aware that one day I’ll look back and maybe add a little value to what just happened.”

En route to Puerto Rico’s first Gold Medal, Monica Puig defeated the current French Open Champion, a two-time Wimbledon Champion, and the reigning Australian Open Champion / Wimbledon Finalist. That’s a hell of a week.

Monica Puig’s Road to the Gold Medal:

GM: def (GER) Angelique Kerber 6-4, 4-6, 6-1
SF: def (CZE) Petra Kvitova 6-4, 1-6, 6-3
QF: def (GER) Laura Siegemund 6-1, 6-1
3R: def (ESP) Garbine Muguruza 6-1, 6-1
2R: def (RUS) Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-3, 6-2
1R: def (SLO) Polona Hercog 6-3, 6-2

Angelique Kerber’s Road to the Silver Medal:

SM: — (PUR) Monica Puig 4-6, 6-4, 1-6
SF: def (USA) Madison Keys 6-3, 7-5
QF: def (GBR) Johanna Konta 6-1, 6-2
3R: def (AUS) Sam Stosur 6-0, 7-5
2R: def (CAN) Eugenie Bouchard 6-4, 6-2
1R: def (COL) Mariana Duque-Marino 6-3, 7-5