On this day in Latinx history: Monica Puig, Puerto Rico’s first Olympic gold medalist, is born
She upset three Grand Slam champions en route to tennis gold in 2016
Monica Puig, who upset three Grand Slam winners en route to Puerto Rico’s first Olympic gold medal, was born on Sept. 27, 1993.
Puig announced herself to the world at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.
She went into the games unseeded but made quick work of Slovenia’s Polona Hercog in the first round and 14th-seeded Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the second.
In the third round, the Puerto Rican also made light work of reigning French Open champion and No. 3 seed Garbiñe Muguruza in straight sets, 6-1, 6-1. Puig dispatched Germany’s Laura Siegemund in the quarterfinals by a similar score.
“In every match I got better and better,” Puig told Olympic.org. “I started getting faster, I started getting more powerful. I started believing in myself even more. With every match that passed, I continued to learn and continued to grow.”
The Czech Republic’s Petra Kvitova, the 2011 and 2014 Wimbledon champion, was waiting for Puig in the semifinals. It took three sets, 6-4, 1-6, 6-3, but the Puerto Rican came out victorious and moved on to the final, where she would face her third Grand Slam champion, Germany’s Angelique Kerber.
Kerber, who was the No. 2 player in the world, reigning Australian Open champion and Wimbledon runner-up, forced Puig to play her second consecutive three-set match of the tournament.
Two hours and nine minutes later and with a score of 6-4, 4-6, 6-1, it became official: Puig won Puerto Rico its first Olympic gold medal. Puerto Rico started sending athletes to the Olympics in 1948 and had eight medals, none gold, to show for it before Puig’s victory.
“This is a great day for all the Puerto Ricans — that live in Puerto Rico and around the world,” Sara Rosario Velez, the president of Puerto Rico’s Olympic committee, told NPR.
The 24-year-old grew up in Miami and was born in Puerto Rico’s capital, San Juan. Her mother, Astrid, was her first tennis coach and introduced her to the game. Puig turned pro at age 16 and was the No. 2 seed in the 2010 Youth Olympic Games in Singapore.
She was eliminated in the second round of that tournament, but the following year, Puig had runner-up finishes at the Australian Open and French Open girls’ singles tournaments. Puig also finished second in the Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico.
After a third-round appearance in the French Open and a round-of-16 loss at Wimbledon in 2013, Puig earned her first WTA Top 100 ranking. In 2014, Puig finally won her first Women’s Tennis Association tournament in Strasbourg, France.