Toronto | Halep halts Haddad Maia to claim WTA 1000 title

Simona Halep needed all her experience and resurgent form to beat Brazil’s Beatriz Haddad Maia in the final of the National Bank Open presented by Rogers, and claim the Canadian title for a 3rd time in her illustrious career.

It was a hard match, difficult match because she played really, really well. She's a very tough opponent. She fought very hard until the end. So I had to stay there. I had to run, sometimes a lot. Simona Halep

It took the Romanian 2 gruelling hours and 16 minutes to secure her 24th career title, 6-3 2-6 6-3, in front of a packed crowd at York University’s Sobeys Stadium in Toronto on Sunday.

“At the start it was really tough,” Halep told reporters. “She’s lefty, so it’s coming different, the spin. She’s very powerful. She’s solid.

“It’s never easy to play against her. She beat me a few weeks ago. I knew that it was going to be a good challenge, and a good fight.

“So it’s been a battle today, and I’m really happy that I could actually be stronger in the important moments.”

With Romanian, Brazilian and Canadian flags fluttering in the stands, Halep’s delight at winning her biggest title since Rome in 2020 was clear.

“It makes it even more special because I really wanted to win it in Toronto as well,” Halep said. “Here there are many Romanians, and they always come to support me. So I’m really happy that I could also win here.”

Halep, whose 2 previous Canadian titles came in Montreal in 2016 and 2018 when it was called the Rogers Cup, was buoyed by chants of ‘Si-mo-na!’ from fans throughout the match.

On her way to her 9th WTA 1000 final, Halep had beaten Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula, and in defeating Haddad Maia, she won her 38th match of the season while, after a year outside the Top 10, she is projected to rise to No 6 in the world.

“I was there for many years but now I feel like it’s a big deal to be back in top 10,” she added after winning her first title since working with Patrick Mouratoglou as her coach. “I’m really happy with this performance.

“When I started the year, I was not very confident, and I set the goal to be top-10 at the end of the year – and here I am.

“It’s a very special moment. I will enjoy it. I will give myself credit. I’m just dreaming for more.”

Beatriz Haddad Maia could not get past Simona Halep in the Toronto final and lost after a gruelling battle

© Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

26-year old Haddad Maia, who was playing her very first final at elite level, upset 3 seeded players this week – 13th-seeded Leylah Fernandez from Canada, Polish World No 1 Iga Swiatek and 14th-seeded Karolina Pliskova from Czech Republic, as well as taking out Roland Garros semi-finalist Martina Trevisan and Wimbledon quarter-finalist Alja Tomljanovic in earlier rounds.

“I think I’m getting more competitive every week, and we are working the right way,” Haddad Maia said. “The results are here because we are focused on the process.

“Very happy with what me and my team are making from the last months.

“I think we are improving a lot every single day. Not even on the matches, but, yeah, outside of the tour when we are practicing.

“We are taking care of my body. We are doing good things. So, yeah, I feel happy and I feel motivated to go to the next challenge.”

A year ago, Haddad Maia was No 183 in the world, and she has stormed up the rankings to 24 after excelling on the grass by winning the tournaments in Nottingham and Birmingham.

Simona Halep had to battle from a break down to win the first set and to recover in the decider against Beatriz Haddad Maia on Sunday at Sobeys Stadium in Toronto

© Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Left-handed and standing 6 foot tall, the Brazilian presents as a formidable force on the court, and she opened at the gallop against the diminutive Halep, who is 6 inches shorter, bounding out to a 3-0 lead.

Brazilian fans chanted ‘Bee-ah! Bee-ah!’, only to be drowned out by the Romanian supporters as Halep roused herself to win 6 straight games, powering a deep forehand return on set point just out of the reach of Haddad Maia’s extended racket to claim the opener, 6-3.

Haddad Maia responded by snatching Halep’s first service game of the second, consolidating through a double-break for 4-0 before the former World No 1 stopped the rot to hold for 1-4, but it was a short-lived recovery as the Brazilian delivered a huge serve on set point 3 games later to square the contest at a set apiece, 6-2.

The crisp and decisive shot-making Haddad Maia had been producing, though, began to evaporate as Halep broke to go up 2-0 in the decider, but then lost her serve before breaking again, using her movement to get on top of the gruelling long rallies, and pushing Haddad Maia into going for more.

One point that typified the epic battle came with Halep up 15-30, looking to jump out to a 3-1 lead, when an extended baseline rally went the Romanian’s way and left both gasping after a final booming forehand winner, sparking rapturous applause from fans inside the stadium, and with commentators and viewers left astonished.

Later, an overhead at the net gave Halep a 5-2 lead, but Haddad Maia kept herself in the match and won another game when her high backhand volley dropped in.

Serving at 3-5, Haddad Maia hoped to hold, but at 15-30, she double-faulted and, at 15-40, Halep sharply shaped a cross-court forehand that opened up the court and all the Brazilian could do was roll a backhand down the middle, on which the Romanian unleashed an untouchable cross-court backhand.

The two-time Grand Slam champion held her nerve, holding a 40-15 advantage in the 9th game, and clinched her first title in Toronto when Haddad Maia sent her return into the net.

“It was a hard match, difficult match,” said Halep, “because she played really, really well.

“She’s a very tough opponent. She fought very hard until the end. So I had to stay there. I had to run, sometimes a lot.”

In the closely contested affair, Halep had 2 fewer winners than Haddad Maia, but she also had 4 fewer unforced errors despite 9 double-faults, and she gritted out the victory after converting 5 of her 10 break points, while Haddad Maia was 4-for-9.

Canadian champion Simona Halep and runner-up Beatriz Haddad Maia pose with their trophies after the WTA 1000 final on Sunday

© Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

After trading 3 breaks, Halep had wrapped it all up on her 2nd match point, shrugging off those double-faults, to become only the 3rd player with at least 9 WTA 1000 titles, after Serena Williams (13) and Victoria Azarenka (10).

In fact, Halep now has 185 match-wins at WTA 1000 tournaments, more than any other player, while she has reached 18 WTA 1000 finals, tied with Serena Williams for the most since this level was introduced in 2009.

Halep has put together a stellar 2022 season, winning 38 matches, which is second only to World No 1 Iga Swiatek’s 49 for the year, while Toronto is the Romanian’s second title in 2022, following a trophy at Melbourne Summer Set 1 in January, all of which augurs well with the US Open right around the corner, the only Grand Slam she has yet to excel at.

Meanwhile, Haddad Maia will take away much from her first WTA 1000 final experience.

Five years younger than Halep, the left-handed Brazilian started off as if she was going to blow her elder off the court, opening up rallies with a strong lefty serve and cracking her laser-like forehand and backhand into the corners of the court, but she lost her way as the Romanian worked her way back into the match and insinuated doubts in Haddad Maia’s mind.

“It was an emotional beginning, even when I was 3-Love up, I couldn’t hold the emotions,” the Brazilian admitted. “I couldn’t control myself.

“Simona start to play better, to improve. And then I was trying to find my way to try to be more aggressive.

“But I was trying to play more aggressive, to do what my coach told me to do, because we know what was the goal. But I was not doing the right way.

“Today Simona deserved it, she played better than me. She was more brave.

“Sometimes we learn – today, it’s a day to learn.”

Both Halep and Haddad Maia are slated to play in the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, which starts on Monday, with the US Open beginning on 29 August.



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