This summer will mark the fourth anniversary of Monica Puig’s biggest achievement in her professional life, but it came at a cost.
At the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, the Puerto Rican was unseeded in the women’s draw with few predicting her to become the champion. Nevertheless, she defied the odds with wins over Garbine Muguruza, Petra Kvitova and Angelique Kerber en route to the title. The achievement elevated Puig to the limelight and made her a national hero back home. Puig became Puerto Rico’s first ever Olympic champion.
“When I’m fine, I’m not afraid to compete with anyone. You put Serena [Williams] in front, I will respect her, but I value myself and I know I can beat him. In that week I believed that in every game I had a chance to win.” Puig said during an interview with the La Nacion newspaper.
Unfortunately the success soon took its toll on Puig, who is now 26. She hasn‘t won any other tournament since then with her only final appearance occurring at the 2017 Luxemburg Open. She has been able to maintain her place in the top 100, but is now in danger of dropping out after falling to a current position of 87th.
As questions mounted over her inability to capitalise on success from 2016, Puig was dealing with her own demons in secret. Revealing that the expectation that was placed on her shoulders following the Olympics soon triggered a battle with depression.
“My last three years have been dark. I didn’t have a focus. I was very entangled in a lot of things and I neglected myself. I didn’t pay attention to valuable things or those that interested me; I just pleased others.” She revealed.
“I stopped going out with friends and family. I was always on the phone and reading comments on social networks, which I did pay attention to. I could have fifteen positive messages, but I read only one negative and that sank me. I was too bad.”
Puig has overcome her struggles with the help of those around her, but it hasn’t been easy. When asked by La Nacion if she sought help from a psychiatrist, she said it was difficult before she is ‘learning to express herself better and trust healthy people.’
“I want to be very sincere, because I know that athletes serve as an image for youth and I want them to know that it is not all rosy.”
Despite her problems on and off the court, the former world No.27 has no intention of ending her career yet. So far she has scored seven wins over top-10 opposition, including Aryna Sabalenka last year. The women’s tour has been renowned for its inconsistency in recent time. Highlight by the last 10 grand slam events being won by eight different players. However, Puig has her own theory.
“There are different talents: there are some that play flatter, others with which they hit you with a top, others that have different shots.” She explained.
“There are young people with incredible results, like Coco Gauff, who plays without fear, or like Sofia Kenin, who competes very well. Both may be losing but they don’t give you opportunities to lower the level.’
“The current women’s tennis is very interesting. And there are very offensive players, the points are finished in two or three shots. Men’s tennis is nice to see because they build the point more, it’s like a story they tell. In women, the story ends quickly. It is different, but very funny.“
This week will see Puig returning to action for the first time since having elbow surgery. She underwent the procedure to resolve a compressed ulnar nerve. Her first tournament is the Oracle Challenger Series, which is a WTA 125 event. She will be seeded 11th in the draw.
Dayana Yastremska Heads To Australia Despite Doping Violation
Did the 20-year-old break the rules with her trip?
Tennis Australia says they are ‘investigating’ after it emerged that Dayana Yastremska boarded a plane funded by the governing body despite failing a drugs test.
Last week the International Tennis Federation issued a statement confirming that the Ukrainian tennis star has been issued with a provisional suspension after testing positive for the banned substance mesterolone metabolite. An anabolic agent prohibited by the World Anti-Doping Agency which can be used for the treatment of people with low testosterone. Yastremska was pictured boarding a plane to Australia on Thursday in a post uploaded by two-time Grand Slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova which has since been deleted.
Yastremska has denied any wrongdoing and says she has ‘scientific evidence’ that her positive test was a result of contamination. Although she didn’t elaborate any further as to what that evidence is. The world No.29 has the right to appeal her provisional suspension but according to the latest ITF statement she hasn’t done so. One way her ban can be lifted is if the appeals board accepts her contamination argument which would allow her to play right away.
“Only a very low concentration of mesterolone metabolite was detected in my urine,” Yastremska wrote in a statement. “Given that low concentration and my negative test two weeks earlier, I have received scientific advice that the result is consistent with some form of contamination event.”
Despite Yastremska’s plea, it is unclear as to if she or Tennis Australia has broken any rules. As of January 15h the ITF still lists her as a player who is provisionally suspended from the sport. Richard Ings, who is the former chair of the Australian anti-doping agency, points out that suspended players are not allowed to participate in any activity organised by a tournament. Raising questions as to if a Tennis Australia funded plane journey counts as one of these ‘activities.’
Yastremska is currently on the Australian Open entry list and is set to be allowed to train during her 14-day quarantine like other players unless anything changes. Tennis Australia has not made a public statement but news agency AAP has confirmed that an investigation has been launched. Should it turn out that the 20-year-old is ineligible to play, it is unclear if she would be required to pay back the cost of her plane trip.
The Australian Open starts on February 8th.
Madison Keys latest player to test positive for Coronavirus
Madison Keys ruled out of the Australian Open after testing positive for COVID-19.
The American tested positive for the first time and will miss the first grand slam of the year.
Madison Keys has officially tested positive for the coronavirus. She announced the news on social media and says she will, unfortunately, miss the Australian Open.
“Hi everyone, I just wanted to let you know that I, unfortunately, tested positive for Covid-19 before I was suppose to fly to Australia. I’m very disappointed to not be able to play in the coming weeks after training hard in the off-season and knowing Tennis Australia and the tours did so much to make these events happen.
“I am self isolating at home and will continue to follow all the necessary health precautions. I look forward to be back on tour next month.
“Thank you for all your support.
“Stay Healthy and safe.
Keys is the latest player to have tested positive after Andy Murray revealed he had a positive test while Tennys Sandgren had tested positive but was given the green light to travel.
Two players in men’s qualifying in Doha tested positive and were immediatly removed from the draw. Apparently if you test positive for the first time you are not allowed to travel but if you already tested positive and show no symptoms there is a chance you will continue to test positive before the effects go away.
Players are traveling this week to Australia and will be mandated to follow the 14 day quarantine with the exception of training five hours a day. The Australian Open begins on February 8th.
While most players will be quarantining in Melbourne both Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have confirmed they will do their quarantine in Adelaide.
Unstoppable Aryna Sabalenka Storms To Abu Dhabi Title
Another clinical performance has secured the Belarusian her third consecutive title and a new career-high ranking position.
Aryna Sabalenka’s winning run shows no signs of stopping anytime soon after she powered her way to the Abu Dhabi title on Wednesday.
The fourth seed needed just over an hour to defeat Russia’s Veronika Kudermetova 6-2, 6-2, in what was a largely one-sided encounter in the Middle East. Sabalenka utilized her power to her advantage as she fired five aces and 18 winners past her opponent who was playing in her first WTA final at the age of 23. Overall she won almost twice as many points (63-37) than Kudermetova.
With both players holding their ground early on, Sabalenka started to dominate midway through the opening set with the help of a four-game winning streak. Leading 3-2 on serve, she broke her Russian rival twice in a row to clinch the 6-2 lead. Throughout the opener the world No.10 dropped just five points behind her serve.
It was a familiar pattern in the second frame with Sabalenka continuing to dismantle Kudermetova’s fragile serve. Overall, she broke six consecutive times in the final with four of those occurring in the second set alone. Easing to a game away from victory, she did experience a blunder after losing one of her breaks. However, there would be no chance of a Kudermetova comeback as Sabalenka closed out the match in the following game with her rival hitting a forehand error on match point.
“I’m really proud of the fact that I was fighting no matter what this week,” the new champion reflected on her performance. “Some matches I didn’t feel my serve and some matches I didn’t feel my backhand or forehand, but I just kept fighting and finding my shots, and this is what I’m really proud of. I’m really happy with this title.”
The win extends Sabalenka’s unbeaten run on the Tour to 15 wins. She has now won three titles in a row after ending 2020 triumphing in both Ostrava and Linz. As a result of her latest triumph, Sabalenka will rise to a ranking high of seventh in the world on Monday.
There is also a silver lining for underdog Kudermetova who defeated Elina Svitolina and Marta Kostyuk earlier in the tournament. Her run to the final will move her up the rankings to a career high of 36th. She has already scored five wins over top 10 opponents so far in her career.
“Aryna’s playing good. She played unbelievable today,” Kudermetova said. “She didn’t give me a lot of chances. She tried to keep every ball on the court, she tried to attack, and when she had her chances she went full power on the court. She also fights until the end—that’s why she’s a top player.”
Sabalenka’s surge on the Tour has sparked high expectations for her going into the Australian Open where she is hoping to break new ground in a Grand Slam.
“I was doing everything I could in each match from the beginning (in Abu Dhabi) and I’m happy to start the season with a title,” Sabalenka said. “I’m going to Australia, I’m confident with one thing, that I will do everything I can to win matches.”
Despite her success on the WTA Tour, she has only reached the fourth round of a major once at the 2018 US Open.
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