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Monica Puig looks for an autumn ascendance

Matt Zemek



Aaron Doster - USA TODAY Sports

This story about Monica Puig begins with a journey to the 2018 Asian autumnal swing on the WTA Tour.

Recall the players who made noticeable forward strides in the final portion of the 2018 WTA season. Some — Anett Kontaveit and Aryna Sabalenka — clearly failed in 2019 to build on what they achieved 12 months ago.

Other players, however, WERE able to take the gains they made in the last months of the 2018 season and carry them through 2019.

One conspicuous example: Wang Qiang, who made the U.S. Open quarterfinals and has done a good job this season of showing that yes, she can do well in tournaments outside Asia.

The knock on Wang entering 2019 was that she did well only on only one continent, the continent which features a lot of tennis in the two months after the U.S. Open. Everyone knows that autumn tennis is different from the other sections of the tennis season. The points count the same, but the relevance and magnitude don’t emerge in full unless a good autumn is followed by a generally productive season the next year.

In 2019, Wang Qiang has taken that next step in her career. It is one of the quiet success stories on the WTA Tour… a story which should not go unremarked upon.

It leads us to our next story.

If you were to come up with a short list of players who can really use a good autumnal season AND whose possible ascendance could really mean something heading into the next season — 2020 — which names would emerge?

This search for a player could involve a big name, such as Sloane Stephens, but I personally don’t see how a big autumn would clearly indicate Sloane is ready for a return to prominence in 2020. The next big tournament for her, in my opinion, is the 2020 Australian Open.

I would put other established players in the same boat.

I am thinking more along the lines of Wang Qiang 2018 when considering this topic. A name which springs to mind as a 2019 example of a player who could lay the groundwork for an emergent 2020 season: Monica Puig.

She got off to a very good start at the Premier 5 Wuhan Open by beating Angelique Kerber in three sets.

Sure, Kerber has been a mess in 2019, just as she has been a mess in odd-numbered years for some time. Nevertheless, Puig seized an opportunity and has given herself a chance to do some damage this week in China.

After being dumped by coach Kamau Murray — who returned to Stephens — a strong September-October finishing kick could be just the thing to convince Puig that her career can get unstuck in 2020.

If she delivered a 2020 season akin to Wang Qiang’s 2019, she would certainly feel that her tennis journey would finally be headed in the right direction.

We gonna see.

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Matt Zemek is the co-editor of Tennis With An Accent with Saqib Ali. Matt is the lead writer for the site and helps Saqib with the TWAA podcast, produced by Radio Influence at Matt has written professionally about men's and women's tennis since 2014 for multiple outlets: Comeback Media, FanRagSports, and independently at Patreon, where he maintains a tennis site. You can reach Matt by e-mail: You can find him on Twitter at @mzemek.

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