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  • Monica Puig of Puerto Rico returns a ball to Francesca Schiavone of Italy during their Mexico Tennis Open match in Acapulco, Guerrero, Mexico, Feb. 28, 2017.

    Monica Puig of Puerto Rico returns a ball to Francesca Schiavone of Italy during their Mexico Tennis Open match in Acapulco, Guerrero, Mexico, Feb. 28, 2017. | Photo: EFE

The tennis player was the first Puerto Rican athlete to win a gold medal after a stunning performance at the Rio Olympics.

Puerto Rican reigning Olympic women's singles champion Monica Puig said patience and hard work were important keys for Latin American women striving to break through to the top of the tennis world.

Puig, who is competing in this week's Abierto Mexicano Telcel in this Pacific port city, said that was the formula that helped her become the first athlete representing the United States commonwealth - male or female - to win an Olympic gold medal in any sport.

At present, she is the only Latin American woman among the world's top 100, having remained at that level of the rankings since 2013.

"I love representing Latin America," the 42nd-ranked Puig told EFE with pride, adding that wherever she has played in the region she has felt strong support from the local crowds.

Puig has steadily climbed the WTA rankings, rising from No. 695 at the end of 2010 to a career-high No. 27 in September 2016, but her run to the title at the Rio Games, including victories over Grand Slam champions Garbiñe Muguruza, Petra Kvitova and Angelique Kerber, stunned the tennis world.

"I don't think anyone expected that I would win the gold medal, but it came with patience and work and I think that's what we have to do," she said.

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