Two-time champion Simona Halep advanced to her fourth National Bank Open final after beating No.7 Jessica Pegula 2-6 6-3 6-4 in the semifinals. Toronto is Halep’s first final since winning the Melbourne 250 in January and the biggest final for the former No. 1 since winning Rome in 2020.
The win assures Halep will return to the top 10 when the Hologic WTA Tour rankings update on Monday. Halep, currently ranked 15th, saw her 373-week reign in the top 10 come to an end almost a year ago when she retired on August 9, 2021. She can move up to 6th place if she wins the title on Sunday.
Halep meets either Karolina Pliskova or Beatriz Haddad Maia in the final. In her 18th WTA 1000 final, Halep is attempting to win her ninth WTA 1000 title and 24th career title.
Pegula faced Halep for the first time and sped through the opening set behind her flat baseline play and efficient work at the net. Halep struggled from the baseline, often breaking down her trusty backhand. But Halep changed the tide early in the second set. Halep found more consistent depth and used more spin to kick the ball out of Pegula’s hitting zone, breaking the American twice to build a 4-1 lead.
“I changed tactics a bit,” said Halep. “It was a bit too fast in the first set. She hit super hard and I didn’t feel the rhythm. Then I just calmed down and tried to push her back a little more.”
On serve at 4-2, Halep saved four break points to hold her break lead. The game was decided by inches when Pegula missed two break points and missed a stretch volley on a Halep pass shot that could have drifted wide. Halep finished the set to force the match into a decider after 80 minutes.
turning point: Halep made 10 double faults in the match and only served 60%, but was able to save 12 of 17 break points that day. Pegula will regret her many missed opportunities. She had multiple break points in three games in the second set, breaking only once.
Serving 2-1 in the final set, Halep fell behind with a quick 40-0, but again Pegula failed to break through. When the Romanian blocked her baseline play to minimize errors and pressure Pegula with her defense, the American relented. After failing to convert four break points in the game, Pegula was instantly broken on serve. With a 3-2 lead and the momentum, Halep built a double break lead before fending off Pegula’s comeback attempt to end the win after 2 hours and 12 minutes.
Statistics of the day: The win is Halep’s 37th of the season, tying her with Ons Jabeur for second most wins on the tour.