Simona Halep can’t say which of her National Bank Open titles means the most to her, but she knows she’ll never forget her third.
Halep defeated Brazilian Beatriz Haddad Maia 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 in the final of the WTA event on Sunday. The Romanian also won the title in Montreal in 2016 and 2018 when the tournament was called the Rogers Cup.
“It’s hard to compare. i am a different person I’ve changed so much. “This tournament is quite a big tournament, it’s a great tournament.
“In my opinion, this is a great win. I really take it with both hands.
That confidence and optimistic outlook are clear changes for Halep, who admitted earlier this season that she is considering retiring from professional tennis in 2021 after falling out of the top 10 in the world rankings.
But that victory – the 24th title of her career and the first since joining Patrick Mouratoglou as manager in April – will propel her to sixth in the standings.
“When I started the year I wasn’t very confident and set my goal to be in the top 10 by the end of the year. And here I am,” Halep said. “So this is a very special moment.
“I will enjoy it. I will honor myself. I only dream of more.”
Haddad Maia, 26, has yet to win a tennis tournament at this level, but she has rocketed up the WTA Tour rankings this year.
She upset three seeded players at the National Bank Open: Laval, Que., No. 13 Leylah Fernandez, world No. 1 Iga Swiatek, No. 12 Belinda Bencic and No. 14 Karolina Pliskova before knocking Halep to three sets in her first-ever Masters 1000 final pressed.
Haddad Maia was ranked 183rd in the world in 2021 but entered this tournament at No. 24 and will crack the top 20 next week due to her strong game at Sobeys Stadium.
“I think we’re improving a lot every day,” said Haddad Maia. “Not even in the games but off the tour when we train.
“We take care of my body. We do good.”
Some Brazilian fans – many of them in the yellow national team – started shouting “Bee-ah! Bee-ah!” to shout. to cheer on Haddad-Maia as she took a 3-0 lead in the opening set.
“I don’t think Brazilians are used to cheering for tennis,” said Haddad Maia, laughing. “Sometimes they scream a little more. They think they’re in a soccer game.
“I was happy to hear a lot of ‘bias’, ‘come on bia’, ‘vamos bia’, ‘keep fighting’.”
Haddad Maia’s supporters were soon greeted by Romanian fans chanting “See-moh-nah! See-moh-nah!” drowned out. The sizable Romanian contingent had inspired Halep before she even set foot on Center Court.
“I really wanted to win it in Toronto,” Halep said, referring to her previous wins in Montreal. “There are a lot of Romanians here and they always come out to support me.
“I’m really happy that I was able to win here too.”
The singing seemed to rouse Halep. A deep forehand return to set point was just out of reach of Haddad Maia’s extended racquet and sealed six straight games for Halep as he rallied to win the opener.
Haddad Maia shrugged off that stunning comeback from Halep to take a 4-0 lead in the second set. Despite Halep winning two games, Haddad sprang Maia out to a 40-15 advantage with the set at stake, and then her serve handcuffed her opponent to force a crucial decider.
“I try to forgive myself even when I miss when I’ve done something wrong,” Haddad Maia said of the recovery to win the second set. “Even when I lost six games in a row, I don’t think Simona played her best tennis either, so maybe she could be nervous at that moment too.”
Halep’s overhand shot at the net gave her a 5-2 lead in the third set and sent the fans into another chant of “See-moh-nah!”
Haddad Maia stayed in the match and won another game when her high backhand volley slammed to make it 5-3. With a 40-15 lead in the ninth game of the third set, Halep claimed her first Toronto title as Haddad Maia netted her return.
Later, American duo Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula defeated Nicole Melichar-Martinez and Australia’s Ellen Pere 6-4, 7-6 (10) to capture the doubles title.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on August 14, 2022.