Semifinal Saturday is living up to the hype so far after a dramatic first singles semi set up the potential for history on Sunday at the National Bank Open.
With the wind dying down and the sun shining, it’s a perfect day for tennis in Toronto.
First into the National Bank Open final is the only former champion left in the draw, Simona Halep. The two-time champion rallied from a set down to defeat the highest remaining seed, No. 7 Jessica Pegula, in three sets.
Halep is through to her fourth final in Canada, second in Toronto, and has a chance to become the first woman to win titles in both Toronto and Montreal in the 21st century.
It was all Pegula in the early stages, as she broke serve twice during a five-game run that carried her through the first set. But Halep dug in to take the second set and then, after weathering an early storm in the third, raced out to a double-break lead that would be enough to send her into the final.
Her opponent in the final will be Beatriz Haddad Maia, who upset No. 14 seed Karolina Pliskova 6-4, 7-6(7) to reach her first WTA 1000 final. Haddad Maia, a two-time titlist on the WTA Tour this year, had only ever won one match at the WTA 1000 level coming into Toronto this week.
The Brazilian came out on fire, racing out to a double-break lead in the opening set. She had to battle back from 2-5 down in the second set before taking it in a tiebreak to book her spot in the final.
Pegula bounced back quickly after the singles disappointment, advancing to the doubles final with Coco Gauff in straight sets. The all-American pair defeated Sania Mirza and Madison Keys in straight sets 7-5, 7-5.
The win was of particular significance for Gauff, who is now one win away from being the No. 1-ranked women’s doubles player in the world. A victory in Sunday’s final and the teen would ascend to the top spot.
Standing between Gauff and the No. 1 ranking are Ellen Perez and Nicole Melichar-Martinez, who ended Canada’s Gabriela Dabrowski’s bid for the Montreal double.
The defending champion and her partner Giuliana Olmos were defeated 7-6(5), 6-3 under the lights on Saturday night.
It is a perfect August day in Toronto, without a cloud in the sky and temperatures in the mid-20s Celsius.
With all the tennis taking place on Centre Court, and some long breaks between matches, it is the perfect opportunity for fans to enjoy the other activities around the grounds.
The 407 ETR fast serve cage continues to provide fans with an opportunity to compare their power to the pros. This writer clocked a serve at 134 KMH, which would rank among the mid-lower tier second serves from the pros smacking the ball around (and making it look easy) on Centre Court. So yeah, these women are strong.
There is also live music at the TC Zone main stage all day if you just want to grab a snack, sit down and enjoy the entertainment!
VIRAL MOMENT ON SOCIAL
The world needs more positivity.
It can be really hard being a professional athlete. The stress of the competition, dealing with not-always-positive interactions with the public, it can take a serious mental toll.
That’s why this year at the National Bank Open, fans had a chance to personally show some encouragement to the women at the WTA Tour and lighten up their days.