Monica Puig won Puerto Rico’s first ever Olympic gold medal when she defeated Germany’s Angelique Kerber 6-4, 4-6, 6-1 in the women’s tennis singles final.
The 22-year-old Florida-based Puig defied her ranking of 34 to get the better of the world number two and Australian Open champion on the back of a sizzling 54 winners yesterday.
Puig, who also knocked out French Open champion Garbine Muguruza in the quarter-finals, is the first woman from the Caribbean island to win a medal of any sort.
Before her golden breakthrough, Puerto Rico had won just eight Olympic medals, two silver and six bronze. Six of that total had come in boxing.
Victory for Puig came in a dramatic seventh game of the final set when she saved six break points before taking gold on a fourth match point when a Kerber forehand sailed wide.
“Oh my God,” she screamed before breaking down in floods of tears and parading her national flag around centre court.
“It’s amazing. My country appreciates this and I give this victory to them. The way I did it, I wouldn’t want it any other way,” said Puig who has lived in Florida for most of her life.
“There was a lot of relief and tension. The ball which went out seemed to be moving really, really slowly. I wished it had sped up a bit more.”
“I got better as the tournament went on, got stronger and faster. The crowd kept telling me, ‘yes, you can’, ‘yes, you can’ and I told myself ‘yes, I can’, ‘yes, I can.
“I can’t believe what I have achieved. It’s one of my biggest dreams.”
Kerber had cruised into the final without dropping a set as the second seed aimed to emulate Steffi Graf who was Germany’s last champion at the 1988.
However, her perfect record in Rio ended when Puig grabbed the first set against a suddenly lacklustre looking German who required treatment on a back injury between sets.
Her medical timeout worked wonders as she broke in the first game of the second set.