Winning tennis gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics remains one of the greatest moments of Monica Puig’s life, but it hasn’t all been plain sailing for the Puerto Rican since her triumph.
However, she has a newfound discipline and perspective that is helping her manage the stress of top-level tennis and restore self-belief.
Puig was propelled into the limelight with her gold medal at the 2016 Summer Games but plagued by injuries and a loss of form, she has since failed to achieve similar success.
“I think I let the pressure get to me, all the expectation and everything,” Puig said at this week’s tournament in Wuhan, China.
“I was… not really feeling comfortable with myself, not really believing in what I had, what I could do out there on the court.”
Puig has had an up and down year. Accompanying an impressive run at the Miami Open in March and a semi-finals appearance at the Connecticut Open in August were early exits from the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open. The 25-year-old was unable to compete at Roland Garros because of a hip injury.
Her ranking dropped to 83 in March, the lowest since winning Olympic gold.
Puig said, however, that she is now far better equipped to deal with setbacks than after her Rio triumph.
“Now I’m just trying to take care of all the little stuff… to make the big picture seem a little bit easier to manage,” she said. “I think I’ve been doing a really good job of that as of late and the results are starting to show.”
“My lesson from Rio has been learned.”
Puig played some exceptional tennis on her way to the quarter-finals at Wuhan but went out of the tournament with a whimper, offering little resistance to China’s Wang Qiang in the last eight.
Currently ranked 51st, Puig says she is focused on just enjoying tennis instead of being swept away by expectations.
“I’m just going to put my head down, continue to work… focus on the process,” she said after thrashing Caroline Wozniacki in Wuhan.
“I’m not going to get wrapped up in the results or anything.”
Puig, who is also pursuing a degree in psychology, said she needed to change her lifestyle to not get overwhelmed.
“I have deadlines to meet with the school. I have to know… when I can work, when I can’t work,” she said.
“A big thing for me actually is, like, putting my clothes away as soon as I get to the hotel, unpacking, packing, all that stuff.
“It might be a little bit manic, a little bit crazy, but those… things help me stay level and just disciplined.”