The breakthrough season of Beatriz Haddad Maia hit another milestone on Saturday as the Brazilian reached her first WTA 1000 final at the National Bank Open presented by Rogers.
Haddad Maia defeated No.14 seed Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic 6-4, 7-6(7) in just over 2 hours, claiming a spot in the final in Toronto. Haddad Maia's result this week is projected to put her into the Top 16 of the WTA singles rankings for the first time on Monday.
"It's a special moment," Haddad Maia said in her post-match press conference. "I think I had a very tough draw. I had to push myself. I played a lot of tough moments."
Haddad Maia, currently ranked at a career-high World No.24, bested former World No.1 Pliskova for the second straight time with the semifinal win, taking a 2-1 lead in their head-to-head.
Halep awaits: Haddad Maia will now face another former World No.1, Simona Halep, for the title on Sunday.
Halep won her first two meetings with Haddad Maia, in the second round of 2017 Wimbledon and in the same round at this year’s Australian Open. However, Haddad Maia got a win over Halep in their third match, which she notched en route to this year's Birmingham grass-court title.
"[Halep is] a champion," Haddad Maia said. "She's a person who works very hard. I know it will be a very tough battle, but I'm going to enjoy. I'm going to leave everything on the court.
"I will try to play aggressive. I learned a lot today because in the moments that I wasn't too aggressive, [Pliskova] was playing better than me. ... I want to improve that for tomorrow. So I'm going to try to enjoy and play point by point."
Fast facts: It was during this year's grass-court swing where Haddad Maia marked herself as a player well on the rise, winning her first two Hologic WTA Tour singles titles at Nottingham and Birmingham in back-to-back weeks.
Haddad Maia has won 17 matches on tour since June, second only to Caroline Garcia’s 20 match-wins during that timeframe. This season, Haddad Maia has made five semifinals or better at tour-level; only Iga Swiatek (8) and Halep (7) have more semifinal-or-better showings in 2022.
Haddad Maia's rise culminated in a career-highlight event this week, where she became the first Brazilian woman to defeat a current World No.1 with her Round-of-16 upset of Iga Swiatek.
The Brazilian has gone an astounding 7-1 against Top 20 players this year, with four of those wins coming this week, including Saturday’s win over Pliskova. Her only loss to a Top 20 player in 2022 came in the aforementioned defeat by Halep at the Australian Open.
Haddad Maia also became the first Brazilian to reach a WTA 1000 quarterfinal, semifinal, and final this week. Moreover, she is the first left-handed player to reach the National Bank Open final since Petra Kvitova won the title in 2012.
Match moments: A hot start by Haddad Maia was cooled off by last year's runner-up Pliskova, who saved three set points at 5-3 and forced the Brazilian to serve for the set for a second time at 5-4. But Haddad Maia was up to the task, powering to a quick hold.
This week's ace leader Pliskova steered the momentum in her favor as she served her way to a 4-1 lead in the second set. However, with Pliskova serving for the set at 5-3, Haddad Maia found a series of powerful groundstrokes when she needed them, pulling back on serve.
In the tiebreak, Haddad Maia could not hold onto mini-breaks at 3-2 and 5-4, and she did not convert a match point at 6-5. Haddad Maia then had to save a set point at 7-6 with a forehand winner, but on the Brazilian's second match point at 8-7, Pliskova double faulted to end the clash.