Can Kerber capture the Gold? – Olympic Medal match previews

By Ros Satar

  • Gold Medal Match: Angelique Kerber [2] (GER) v Monica Puig (PUR)
  • Bronze Medal Match: Madison Keys [7] v Petra Kvitova [11]
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Angelique Kerber will take on unseeded Monica Puig for a spot of history for either player, while Madison Keys will face Petra Kvitova for the Bronze Medal

 

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Gold Medal Match: Angelique Kerber [2] (GER) v Monica Puig (PUR)

H2H: Kerber leads 3-0

A little bit of Olympic history will beckon for either of these worthy champions on Saturday. For Kerber it is a chance to become the first German since Steffi Graf to strike gold, and adds to an extraordinary year which saw her win her maiden Grand Slam, before backing that up as a Wimbledon finalist.

Consistent, to the last, she is yet to drop a set on the way to the final, and there is no doubt that she has the ‘big match’ mentality.

Contrast Puig, who is already assured of the title of history maker. Puerto Rico’s previous eight Olympic medals have all been won by men, and never the gold. While Germans are always looking for ‘the next Graf’, step forward the first Puig.

She has had a pretty good year, she already has  a WTA title under her belt, and made the Sydney final to start her 2016 season, and although she started nervously against the two-time Wimbledon champion Kvitova in the semi-final, she turned around a 0-3 deficit to take the first set, and overcame a second set wobble to push the 11th seed into the Bronze medal play-off.

It was an edgy start though against the Czech, and she can ill-afford a slow start against Kerber. We saw how she took away rhythm and frustrated Johanna Konta, and Kerber knows that Puig’s confidence will be high.

She told WTATennis.com after her win over Keys: “She’s played very good this week. I know it’ll be a tough final, but I’ll try to enjoy it, go out and play my best tennis and, of course, win the next match. But Monica plays good and I’m ready for that.”

Kerber had to show true grit and booked her spot in the final with her sixth match point. Puig will come at her with aggression and heavy hitting, but Kerber’s strength is being able to run everything down which was frustrating Keys early in their semi-final.

Kerber is not averse to feeling the pressure of the sense of occasion either. She has improved admittedly from the state she got herself in at last year’s WTA Finals, which marked a turning point for her. And without Serena Williams across the net, as the one on paper who should win – it will be interesting to see who is the more nervous at the start.

Prediction: Kerber in three sets.

 

Bronze Medal Match: Madison Keys [7] v Petra Kvitova [11]

H2H: 2-2

How do you lift yourself up from the disappointment of missing out on a guaranteed medal to do battle once more for a consolation Bronze? That is the challenge that awaits Keys and Kvitova. Keys put up a great fight, especially with her rally in the second set actually saving three match points and a fourth in the same game as she pushed Kerber hard in their semi-final.

This has been a welcome patch of good health and powerful play from the American, who broke the Top 10 earlier this year on her way to claiming the Birmingham title.

Kvitova started strongly in her semi-final before surrendering the first set to Puig. She put pedal to the metal in the second set, and in a nervy decider, once Puig hit the front for the second time, Kvitova just looked on the back foot.

Locked at even-stevens in their head to head, Kvitova edges Keys on the hard courts, although the most recent win goes to Keys beating Kvitova in the slow clay of Rome on her way to the final.

Both strike the ball hard, both have a powerful serve and maybe Kvitova’s leftie serve might edge her a few more free points.

Movement has been a issue for both in the past, but Kvitova knows how to spring the angles to make up for not being quite as fleet of foot. Keys has improved her game, her on-court mentality and has her chance to shine in the absence of Williams.

Prediction: Keys in three sets.

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