EASTBOURNE, United Kingdom: Qualifier Monica Puig had to dig deep to extend her fairytale run in Eastbourne, battling past Kristina Mladenovic to move into the semi-finals of the Wimbledon warm-up event on Thursday (Friday in Manila).
Shortly after the 43rd-ranked Puerto Rican booked her place, top seed and 2008 champion Agnieszka Radwanska was caught out by rain moving into Britain’s south coast from France.
Radwanska was a set up against 12th seed Dominika Cibulkova, 6-4, 3-2, when their quarter-final was forced off court at Devonshire Park for a second time in the evening.
Czech 10th seed Karolina Pliskova was leading Russia’s Elena Vesnina, the 2013 champion, 4-0. British 11th seed and Eastbourne local Johanna Konta never got onto court against Russian Ekaterina Makarova.
Puig, who spent nearly three hours in defeating French Open doubles champion Mladenovic 7-6 (8/6), 4-6, 6-3, said that mental strength was vital.
“The sports psychology part, my team takes care of. My coach and everybody on my team tries to get me mentally prepared for every single type of situation that I’m going to encounter on the court,” she said.
“The strength comes from within, but I think it just gets stronger due to the experience I have had in the past. I’ve had several matches where I have been the softer one and I have caved to the pressure.
“But now I have some of these matches under my belt (from difficult situations) and I have been able to pull it out.”
Puig also made it to the Sydney final in January from a qualifying start, facing two-time grand slam winner Svetlana Kuznetsova in the title match. She ran out of steam and lost the final 6-0, 6-2.
Puig on Thursday survived nine double-faults and 10 aces from her opponent in a see-saw tear-up on the grass.
“We’re both putting so much pressure on each other’s serves. It was basically about me staying focused and doing what I had to do, which is be as aggressive as I could and just keep my head together,” said Puig.