Former world No. 1 Simona Halep of Romania, a two-time major champion, defeated No. 7 Jessica Pegula of the United States to reach her fourth National Bank Open final and largest since 2020.
With her impressive run in the WTA 1000 tournament, the 30-year-old Halep, who will face Brazil’s Beatriz Haddad Maia in the final here, will return to the world’s Top-10 when the latest rankings are released on Monday.
Halep, a two-time champion, advanced to the tournament final after defeating Pegula 2-6, 6-3, 6-4. Toronto is Halep’s first final since winning the Melbourne 250 in January, and her biggest since winning Rome in 2020.
Halep, who is currently ranked No.15, saw her 373-week reign in the Top-10 come to an end nearly a year ago when she dropped out on August 9, 2021. According to wtatennis.com, if she wins the title on Sunday, she could move up to No. 6.
Halep is in her 18th WTA 1000 final, attempting to win her ninth WTA 1000 title and 24th career title.
Pegula raced through the opening set against Halep, capitalising on her flat baseline game and efficient work at the net. Halep struggled from the baseline, with her backhand frequently breaking down. Halep, on the other hand, shifted gears early in the second set, breaking the American twice to take a 4-1 lead.
“I changed a little bit the tactics,” Halep said. “In the first set, it was a little bit too fast. She was hitting super strong and I didn’t feel the rhythm. Then I just calmed down and I tried to just push her back a little bit more.”
The win is Halep’s 37th of the season, tying her for second on tour with Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur.
Meanwhile, Haddad Maia advanced to the final by defeating last year’s finalist and No.14 seed Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic 6-4, 7-6(7) in just over two hours. Haddad Maia’s performance this week is expected to propel her into the WTA singles rankings for the first time on Monday.
“It’s a special moment,” Haddad Maia said in her post-match press conference. “I think I had a very tough draw. I had to push myself. I played a lot of tough moments.” Haddad Maia, currently ranked at a career-high World No.24, bested former World No.1 Pliskova for the second straight time with the semifinal win, taking a 2-1 lead in their head-to-head.
“(Halep is) a champion,” Haddad Maia said. “She’s a person who works very hard. I know it will be a very tough battle, but I’m going to enjoy. I’m going to leave everything on the court.
“I will try to play aggressive. I learned a lot today because in the moments that I wasn’t too aggressive, (Pliskova) was playing better than me. … I want to improve that for tomorrow. So I’m going to try to enjoy and play point by point.”
(Inputs from IANS)