Two-time champion Simona Halep advanced to her fourth National Bank Open final after rallying to defeat 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 are updated on Monday. Currently ranked No.15, Halep saw her 373-week reign in the Top 10 end nearly a year ago when she dropped out on Aug. 9, 2021. She can rise as high as No.6 if she wins the title on Sunday.
Halep will face either Karolina Pliskova or Beatriz Haddad Maia in the final. Into her 18th WTA 1000 final, Halep is bidding to win her ninth WTA 1000 title and 24th career title.
Facing Halep for the first time, Pegula raced through the opening set behind her flat baseline game and efficient work at the net. Halep struggled from the baseline, with her reliable backhand breaking down often. But Halep shifted the tide early in the second set. Finding more consistent depth and using more spin to kick the ball out of Pegula's strike zone, Halep broke the American twice to build a 4-1 lead.
"I changed a little bit the tactics," Halep said. "In the first set, it was a little bit too fast. She was hitting super strong and I didn't feel the rhythm. Then I just calmed down and I tried to just push her back a little bit more."
Serving at 4-2, Halep saved four break points to maintain her break lead. The game was decided by mere inches, as Pegula narrowly missed on two break points and missed a stretch volley on a Halep passing shot that may have been drifting wide. Halep closed out the set to force the match into a decider after 80 minutes.
Turning point: Halep struck 10 double-faults in the match and served at just 60% but was able to save 12 of 17 break points on the day. Pegula will rue her many missed opportunities. She had multiple break points in three games in the second set and only broke once.
Serving at 1-2 in the final set, Halep fell behind a quick 0-40 but again Pegula could not break through. With the Romanian locking down her baseline game to minimize errors and pressure Pegula with her defense, the American buckled. After failing to convert on four break points in the game, Pegula was broken immediately at love. With a 3-2 lead and the momentum, Halep built a double-break lead before holding off Pegula's comeback attempt to close out the win after 2 hours and 12 minutes.
Stat of the day: The victory is Halep's 37th of the season, tying her with Ons Jabeur for the second-most wins on tour.