Halep battles past Haddad Maia to clinch title in Toronto

Former world No. 1 Simona Halep marked her return to the top 10 as the Romanian won the National Bank Open title for the third time in her career on Sunday.

2016 and 2018 champion Halep ended the run of first-time WTA 1000 finalist Beatriz Haddad Maia of Brazil in the championship match, prevailing 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 after 2 hours and 16 minutes her 24th career Hologic to win singles titles on the WTA Tour.

“It’s never easy to play against [Haddad Maia]’ Halep said in her post-game press conference. “She hit me a few weeks ago. … I knew it was going to be a good challenge and a good fight. So it was a fight today and I’m really happy that I was actually able to be stronger in the important moments.”

With her most recent victory in Canada, Halep has won a single event three times for the first time in her career. However, this is Halep’s first triumph in Toronto – her previous titles at the National Bank Open came at the Montreal ground.

“That makes it even more special because I really wanted to win it in Toronto as well,” said Halep. “There are many Romanians here and they always come to support me. That’s why I’m very happy that I was able to win here as well.”

Toronto: Halep defeats Haddad Maia to win 3rd Canadian Open

2022 Toronto

The top 10 wave: After just over a year outside the top 10, two-time Grand Slam champion Halep is expected to rise from 15th to 6th in Monday’s rankings.

“I think it’s a big deal to be back in the top 10,” Halep said. “When I started the year I wasn’t very confident and I set my goal to be in the top 10 by the end of the year. And here I am. So it’s a very special moment. I’m going to enjoy it. I will give myself credit. I only dream of more.”

Halep has put together an outstanding 2022 season. She has won 38 games, trailing only Iga Swiatek, the world No. 1, with 49 this year. This is Halep’s second title of the season, following a trophy at Melbourne Summer Set 1 in January.

For her part, Haddad Maia is set to make her Top 20 debut next week with a predicted finish of 16th.

More from Toronto: Coco Gauff conquered the world number 1 in doubles with the title in Toronto

WTA 1000 Expert: Halep has 185 match wins in WTA 1000 tournaments, more than any other player. She has reached 18 WTA 1000 finals, the most with Serena Williams since the level was introduced in 2009.

But this was Halep’s first WTA 1000 Finals since she won the 2020 title in Rome just under two years ago. Despite that gap, Halep proved her experience at this level was second to none, holding off world No. 24 Haddad Maia and improving to 3-1 against the rising Brazilian.

History of the game: In the hard-fought affair, Halep was two fewer winners than Haddad Maia, but she also had four fewer unforced errors despite nine double faults. Halep claimed the win after converting five of her 10 break points. Haddad Maia was 4-for-9.

Halep had four double faults in her first service game but bounced back from a 3-0 deficit to conquer six straight games by a set. Haddad Maia extended another strong lead in the second set, jumping to 4-0 and this time the Brazilian held on to level the match.

After an early exchange of breaks in the third set, Halep found greater scope on her groundstrokes to take a 4-1 lead. As the set progressed, Halep stayed focused and aggressive when needed, finding exceptional overhead winners en route to a love hold for 5-2.

Haddad Maia, the first Brazilian to reach the quarterfinals and beyond at a WTA 1000 event, put on a strong play on the forecourt to hold 5-3. But Halep was up to the task of finishing the match and opening that game with a temporary winner while she wrapped up the title.

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