The National Bank Open, formerly Rogers Cup

407 ETR Morning Commute: Quarter-final Friday led by Halep-Gauff showdown

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August 12, 2022
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Simona Halep reacts to a big point.

Photo : Peter Power/Tennis Canada

Which way does the pendulum swing in the final three days of the National Bank Open presented by Rogers?

There is the veteran guard, led by two-time champion Simona Halep; the breakout stories, like Beatriz Haddad Maia, who stunned world No. 1 Iga Świątek on Thursday; and the rising teenagers, like American Coco Gauff and Zheng Qinwen of China.

It’s all for play on quarter-final Friday at Sobeys Stadium – and we look ahead to the action to come on the 407 ETR Morning Commute.

Halep, Bencic look for Canadian magic – again

While Halep and former world No. 1 Karolina Pliskova lead the veteran slate, the Romanian is joined by 2015 champion as the only former winners remaining in the draw, Halep having won in Montreal in 2016 and 2018.

Should Halep and Bencic meet in the final it would be a repeat of 2015, when Halep was forced to retire in the championship match.

Halep will take on Gauff in a fourth meeting between the two, including a third this year. Halep has never lost a set in those matches, a sparkling 6-0 record making her the favourite to reach a first semi here in four years.

Beatriz’s breakout victory

Canada, meet “Bea.”

The 26-year-old from Sao Paulo won two grass court titles earlier this summer in the lead-up to Wimbledon, a run that she said helped it “click” that she should play focus on only one brand of tennis to continue her run up the rankings: Aggressive.

On Thursday, she used that mentality to stun world No. 1 Świątek in three hours, winning 6-3, 4-6, 7-5, by serving four aces and getting broken just three times in three sets.

She’s the first Brazilian quarter-finalist, male or female, in Canada since Gustavo Kuerten got to the last eight of the men’s event in 1997 – 25 years ago.

Teens on the scene in Toronto

Or… could we have an all-teen final come Sunday?

We’re still a long way off, but Gauff and Zheng are two contenders, Bianca Andreescu saying on Thursday night that her Chinese conqueror Zheng could very well win the tournament.

The most recent all-teen women’s final in Canada? Serena vs. Martina Hingis way back in 2000.

It’s a first WTA 1000 quarter-final for the 19-year-old Zheng, while Gauff has beaten Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina and former world No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka in back-to-back third-set tiebreaks on the Grandstand court to earn her Friday meeting with Halep.

Still celebrating Serena

Wednesday evening will live on in our memory – forever. For you, too? Serena Williams’ final night on court in Canada was a memorable one, her loss to Bencic showered in appreciation for the 23-time major champion, who had announced her impending retirement in a Vogue essay on Tuesday.

While Serena fell to Bencic, she won over the Canadian crowd one more time – in part with an emotional and moving on-court interview, saying: “It’s just been so memorable. Like I said in my article, I’m not good at good-byes… but good-bye, Toronto.”

She added: “Thank you from the bottom of my heart. It’s been a joy playing in front of you guys all these years. So – thank you.”

Andre, Bo and co.

It’s been a celebration of Canadian sport this week at the tennis, with Olympic gold medallist Andre De Grasse in attendance on Thursday evening to watch Bianca. So too was MLB hair king Bo Bichette of the Blue Jays.

“Now I really wish I would have won,” laughed Andreescu following her loss to Zheng having been told the sports stars were watching.

Earlier in the week, Olympic swimming medallist Kylie Masse stopped by, as well.

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