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By Richard Pagliaro | Saturday, August 13 2022

 
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No. 15-seeded Simona Halep topped Jessica Pegula 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 to reach her 42nd career final in Toronto.

Photo credit: Vaughn Ridley/Getty

Simona Halep repeatedly reached the breaking point—and danced around danger into the Toronto final.

A gutsy Halep answered break-point pressure with controlled counter-strikes defeating Jessica Pegula 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 to rally into her fourth National Bank Open final.

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Two-time champion Halep won both of her titles (2016 and 2018) when the tournament was staged in Montreal. Halep will play for a third National Bank Open championship—and 24th career crown—in tomorrow's final against Brazilian left-hander Beatriz Haddad Maia, who upset world No. 1 Iga Swiatek.

The talented 24-year-old from Sao Paulo started the season at 82 in the world, but after two titles on the grass in Nottingham and Birmingham and this week's 1000-level final in Toronto, she will climb to at least 16 and potentially 14 in the world with the title.




It is Halep's 42nd career final, including her 18th WTA 1000 final. Halep is the queen of WTA 1000 events: she scored her WTA-best 184th career WTA 1000 win.

More importantly, the victory vaults the 30-year-old Romanian back into the Top 10 for the first time in a year. Halep rises to No. 9 in the live rankings, two places behind Pegula.

Former world No. 1 Halep showed defiance in the face of break-point pressure today. Halep saved 12 of 17 break points overall, including 11 of 14 break points over the final two sets.

Tennis Express

The seventh-seeded Pegula pumped her first ace out wide to close the opening set in style. Pegula hit five more winners than Halep, who littered 13 unforced errors in the first set.

Taking a bathroom break to reset, Halep fended off a couple of break points, including spinning a short-angled forehand on the run, that helped her hold to start the second set.

The pair traded breaks before Halep honed in on her range and rhythm.




Varying the height and spin on her shots, the two-time champion broke again then used a leaping smash and fortuitous net-cord winner confirming the break for a 4-1 second-set lead.

A resilient Halep battled off three more break points in the seventh game. Running down everything Pegula threw at her, Halep extended points, cracked replies in the corners and held strong for 5-2.

Serving for the set, Halep knelt low and spun a crosscourt backhand winner to take the second set and force a decider after 80 minutes. A scrappy Halep saved six of seven break points in the set.




Hammering her backhand with vigor, Halep was playing longer points and draining errors as she broke to open the final set.  Pegula broke back and worked through a hard-fought hold for 2-1.

Contesting her second straight National Bank Open semifinal, Pegula had multiple break points in the fourth game, but Halep stood tall meeting every challenge to hold firm.

By then, Pegula had squandered five of six break points in the third set. Perhaps those lost opportunities were haunting the American as she played a sloppy service game dropping serve at love.

Serving at 3-5, Pegula put too much air under a floating drop shot. Sprinting up to the ball, Halep swatted a forehand winner for double match point. Pegula saved both match points and when Halep missed a forehand the Romanian swiped her Wilson stick off the hard-court dislodging the dampener. Pegula showed her grit grinding through a tough hold to put the pressure right back on the Romanian's shoulders

A determined running get from Halep helped her earn two more match points. On her third match point, Pegula put a backhand into net and Halep was through after two hours, 12 minutes.

Halep, who has dropped just one set in five tournaments wins, will play for her 24th career title tomorrow.

 

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