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Puig not living off Olympic goose bumps

Puerto Rican desperate to move on from gold medal win in Rio

Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News
Monica Puig (PUR) beats Yaroslava Shvedova (KAZ) at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships in the Dubai Tennis Stadium.
Gulf News

Dubai: Memories of last summer’s shock Olympic gold medal win over Angelique Kerber still give Monica Puig goose bumps, but she knows it’s not a wave of emotion she can ride on forever.

“It was a great week for me in Rio, but the fact of the matter is I didn’t back it up afterward,” said the 23-year-old Puerto Rican, who has only made two quarters and a semi in the nine WTA tournaments since — with the semi coming last week in Doha.

The World No. 42 overcame Kazakhstan’s Yaroslava Shvedova 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 in her first round in Dubai on Monday, and will now face France’s Caroline Garcia in the last 32, but there’s still a long way to go before she can win her third career title after Rio 2016 and the 2014 Strasbourg Grand Prix.

“The Olympics happened, it was great, but I’m hungry for more success. I’m just trying to leave that in the past and when I have some free time I try and reflect on it a little bit, but I’m just trying to focus on the present and what I have to do now to get better.

“The medal is at home in a safe place. It’s always nice to reflect on that and just know that it wasn’t a dream. It’s not on display yet, but I like to look at it a lot. It gives me goose bumps. It was such a beautiful moment for me. It’s always nice to go back and remember.”

Asked if her gold medal had raised the stakes both in terms of expectations and targets for 2017, she added: “There is a bit more pressure, but that’s something I have to learn to cope with, and my team are doing a great job of helping me stay focused on the present.”

Her best performance in a Grand Slam was when she reached the fourth round at Wimbledon in 2013, but it’s not as though Rio has suddenly changed things, she was knocked out in the second round in last month’s Australian Open.

“I do have goals, but right now I think the biggest thing is focusing on the process, because if I get too result-orientated, then I lose sight of what’s important. And right now what’s important is to continue to grow as a tennis player and as a person.

“I feel like maturity is something I have to work on. I’m in no rush to get anywhere. I proved to myself that anything great can happen at any time. I just have to work really hard to get there,” she said in reference to becoming not only the first female Latin American to win tennis Olympic gold but also the first unseeded female to become champion. “I just want this really bad, so I’m going to do whatever it takes. If that’s training more, fixing the little things, it doesn’t matter for me. I really love playing tennis. I’m just going to work really hard to accomplish more of my dreams.”