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Petra Kvitova vs Monica Puig Rio Olympics tennis live: Winner will guarantee themselves an Olympic medal

Hannah Wilks in News 11 Aug 2016
Petra Kvitova (LUIS ACOSTA/AFP/Getty Images)

Two women who have been on fearsome form so far at the Olympic games, Czech Republic’s Petra Kvitova and Puerto Rico’s Monica Puig, face off in Friday’s semifinals with the winner guaranteed an Olympic medal in Rio. 

Czech Republic’s Petra Kvitova will face Puerto Rico’s Monica Puig in the semifinals of the women’s singles at the 2016 Rio Olympics on Friday.

Of the four women, representing four different nations, who have made the semifinals in Rio de Janeiro only one will leave the Olympic games without a medal, with the winners of Friday’s semifinals facing off for gold and silver on Saturday while the two losers duke it out for the bronze. It’s the dreaded ‘fourth place finish’ unique to the Olympics and everybody will be desperate to avoid it and to guarantee themselves at least a silver medal by winning on Friday. 

For Petra Kvitova, the two-time Wimbledon champion, an Olympic medal would be a significant boost to a dire season; for Monica Puig, it would not only represent the culmination of a long-held dream, but guarantee the young woman from Puerto Rico sporting immortality among her compatriots. Puig, whose puppy is named ‘Rio’, said at the very beginning of 2016 that Olympic gold was her dream and goal and, when livetennis.com spoke to her in June, she spoke about how proud she was just to qualify for the Games and add another athlete to Puerto Rico’s small roster.

It’s been a career-best season for Puig, currently just one place below the career-high ranking of world no. 33 which she achieved in July. Starting her season with a stunning run to the Sydney final as a qualifier, Puig went on to make the third rounds of the Australian Open, Indian Wells, Charleston and the French Open, as well as another Premier-level semifinal in Eastbourne as a qualifier again. In the last couple of weeks, Puig exited early in Montreal to qualifier Naomi Broady but had a solid, confidence-boosting run to the semifinals of Florianopolis the week before the Olympics. 

Positive as that was, Rio has been like another planet for Puig, who hasn’t dropped a set on her way to the semifinals. Trying to become the second unseeded woman to win a medal at the Olympics – the first was Alicia Molik, who took bronze in 2004 – Puig beat Polona Hercog 6-3, 6-2, Wimbledon quarterfinalist Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova by the same scoreline, then ousted third seed Garbine Muguruza 6-1, 6-1 to set up a quarterfinal clash with Germany’s Laura Siegemund, only to dust the Stuttgart runner-up 6-1, 6-1. That’s just 14 games conceded by the Puerto Rican player in four matches.

Petra Kvitova, however, has also been on fearsome form in Rio. It’s been a very, very poor season for the two-time Wimbledon champion, who was just 18-16 coming into the Olympics (compare that to Puig’s 41-20 record in 2016). Down to world no. 14 after starting the year at world no. 6, Kvitova’s slide really started in 2015, a year during which she was diagnosed with mononucleosis, but at least last year had its moments for the powerful Czech, namely titles in Sydney and Madrid and a runner-up finish in Singapore. In 2016, Kvitova has reached just one semifinal (Stuttgart), one quarterfinal (Indian Wells) and won back-to-back matches at just three more events.

It’s been going well for Kvitova in Rio, however. After opening with straight-set wins over Timea Babos and Caroline Wozniacki, Kvitova overcame Ekaterina Makarova – who beat her in the second round of Wimbledon – 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 before absolutely dusting Elina Svitolina, who defeated an injured Serena Williams in the previous round, 6-2, 6-0 to reach the semifinals.

So we have two women playing the best tennis of their respective seasons so far, facing off for the first time in the heightened emotional atmosphere of the Olympics and the tricky, windy conditions prevailing in Rio. One suspects the slower court will blunt Kvitova’s power, but this is really all about how the Czech performs. If she serves well, she can overwhelm Puig with first-strike tennis but the Puerto Rican is playing the best tennis of her life in Rio. Who will guarantee themselves an Olympic medal by powering their way to victory?

Kvitova vs Puig is scheduled on Centre Court in Rio de Janeiro on Friday at 12pm local/4pm BST