Photo : Tyler Anderson/Tennis Canad)
By Max Gao
No. 15 seed and two-time Grand Slam champion Simona Halep won her third title at the National Bank Open presented by Rogers on Sunday afternoon, battling past Brazil’s Beatriz Haddad Maia 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 in two hours and 16 minutes.
With this victory, which was her third in Canada but first in Toronto, Halep won her second title of the year, the 24th of her career and the biggest since winning in Rome two years ago. The former World No. 1 will also return to the Top 10 in Monday’s rankings, jumping from No. 16 to No. 6, while Haddad Maia will make her Top 20 debut at No. 16.
Having rallied from a set down against No. 7 seed Jessica Pegula in the semifinals, Halep was hoping to get off to a stronger start. But the Romanian, who hit a total of 18 double faults in her last two matches, struggled to find her rhythm in the early stages of her fourth meeting with Haddad Maia, hitting four double faults in her first service game to give away the break.
Haddad Maia—who had recorded victories over World No. 1 Iga Swiatek, Canadian No. 1 Leylah Fernandez, Olympic gold medallist Belinda Bencic and former U.S. Open finalist Karolina Pliskova en route to the final—saved two break points to jump out to a 3-0 lead.
Halep responded in emphatic fashion, reeling off six games in a row to take the opening set after 50 minutes. The Romanian stepped inside the baseline and used the depth on her steady groundstrokes to put pressure on Haddad Maia, who began to miss more first serves and grew increasingly erratic as the set progressed.
In the second set, however, the Brazilian responded by being more aggressive and having a greater sense of urgency on her groundstrokes, breaking in the opening game and saving a break point in the following game to go up 2-0.
Halep soon began to rush in her own service games and hit a double fault to hand the double-break lead to Haddad Maia. From there, the current World No. 24 continued to use her big lefty serve and forehand to move Halep laterally, eventually serving out the set to force a decider.
The final set was a much tighter affair, with Halep twice double faulting on the deuce side in the opening game to give Haddad Maia break points. The Brazilian, however, was made to rue her missed opportunities, as she made loose unforced errors that allowed Halep to escape falling down an early break.
Buoyed by the support of the vocal Romanian supporters, Halep broke in the following game, with her off-paced groundstrokes causing Haddad Maia to miss even more. While Haddad Maia was able to break straight back with some gutsy play, hitting a line-clipping backhand winner down the line on break point, Halep’s steely defence eventually caused her to buckle under pressure.
Halep recovered the break and came back from 0-30 down in the next game to take a 4-1 lead—and she pressed home that advantage, despite some notable resistance from Haddad Maia who made her fight for every point. The former French Open and Wimbledon champion came out on top in some of the longest and most physically draining rallies of the match, and she was able to serve out the match with ease, clinching the victory with a big body serve.