The National Bank Open, formerly Rogers Cup

Haddad Maia stuns Bencic to reach first WTA 1000 semifinal against Pliskova

August 12, 2022
Beatriz Haddad Maia pumps her fist and yells

Photo : Peter Power/Tennis Canada

By Max Gao

A day after upsetting World No. 1 Iga Swiatek, Brazil’s Beatriz Haddad Maia knocked out No. 12 seed and 2015 champion Belinda Bencic, 2-6, 6-3, 6-3, on Friday night to advance to the semifinals of the National Bank Open presented by Rogers. With this victory, Haddad Maia has become the first Brazilian to reach the semifinals of a WTA 1000 event.

A two-time titlist on the Hologic WTA Tour this year, Haddad Maia, who is playing the best tennis of her career and currently sitting at a career-high ranking of No. 24 in the world, will face No. 14 seed Karolina Pliskova, who defeated China’s Zheng Qinwen, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, just after midnight in Toronto.

Having already beaten the World No. 1 Swiatek and Canadian No. 1 Leylah Fernandez en route to the quarterfinals, Haddad Maia was hoping to ride the same wave of momentum in her second meeting with Bencic, who had beaten her in straight sets earlier this year at Sydney and had actually toppled her en route to winning the 2013 Junior Roland Garros title.

But it was Bencic, who had already recorded victories over Grand Slam champions Serena Williams and Garbiñe Muguruza to improve to 11-1 in Toronto, who jumped out to an early lead. She broke in the sixth game when Haddad Maia’s volley sailed long and consolidated her advantage before breaking at love to take the opener in 34 minutes.

Haddad Maia, however, refused to go down quietly. She broke at the third time of asking in the third game of the second set with a pinpoint forehand winner, and that break proved decisive as she used her lefty serve and forehand to keep Bencic off balance and moving from side-to-side.

Buoyed by the support of the Brazilian fans, who have turned out in greater numbers at every one of her matches in Toronto, Haddad Maia saved a break-back point in the sixth game and continued to hold serve before breaking once more a few games later to force a decider.

After a short break between sets, Bencic raced out of the gates, grabbing a break to start the final set. But once she began to draw errors from Bencic, Haddad Maia began to grow in confidence, breaking back for 2-all. The Brazilian left-hander saved a break point in the seventh game before immediately breaking with another big forehand. She served an ace down the T to convert her third match point in the final game, sealing the victory in two hours and 11 minutes.

In the final quarter-final of the day, Pliskova jumped out to an early 3-0 lead before Zheng, who knocked out hometown hero Bianca Andreescu on Thursday, hit back in emphatic style, winning five games in a row. With the support of the vocal Chinese tennis fans in Toronto, the rising star served the set out at love to move within a set of the final four.

The second set began much like the first, with Pliskova breaking in a drawn-out second game en route to taking a 3-0 lead. Trailing 1-4, 0-30, Zheng reeled off four points in a row to hold serve and then proceeded to break to get back on serve. With the score tied at 4-all, Pliskova saved a break point in a marathon, five-deuce game and then converted her second set point to send the match to a third set.

The decider was a much tighter affair, with seven consecutive holds of serve before Pliskova, using a combination of her flat groundstrokes and capitalizing on a few loose errors from Zheng, broke to take a 5-3 lead. But while she wasn’t able to serve out the match, hitting two double faults in the game, the former U.S. Open finalist was able to take her chances in the following game, sealing the win in two hours and 34 minutes.