Former World No.1 Simona Halep stamped her return to the Top 10, as the Romanian won the title Sunday at the National Bank Open for the third time in her career.
The 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 to capture her 24th career Hologic WTA Tour singles title.
"It's never easy to play against [Haddad Maia]," Halep said in her post-match press conference. "She beat me a few weeks ago. ... I knew that it was going to be a good challenge and a good fight. So it's been a battle today, and I'm really happy that I could actually be stronger in the important moments."
With her latest 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 National Bank Open titles came at the Montreal site.
"It makes it even more special because I really wanted to win it in Toronto as well," Halep said. "Here there are many Romanians and they always come to support me. So I'm really happy that I could also win here."
Top 10 beckons: After just over a year outside the Top 10, the two-time Grand Slam champion Halep is projected to rise from No.15 to No.6 in Monday’s rankings.
"I feel like it's a big deal to be back in the Top 10," Halep said. "When I started the year I was not very confident and I set the goal to be, at the end of the year, Top 10. And here I am. So it's a very special moment. I will enjoy it. I will give myself credit. I'm just dreaming for more."
Halep has put together a stellar 2022 season. She has won 38 matches, second only to World No.1 Iga Swiatek’s 49 for the year. This is Halep's second title of the season, following a trophy at Melbourne Summer Set 1 in January.
Haddad Maia, for her part, will make her Top 20 debut next week, with a projected ranking of No.16.
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WTA 1000 expert: Halep has 185 match-wins at WTA 1000 tournaments, more than any other player. She has reached 18 WTA 1000 finals, tied with Serena Williams for the most since this level was introduced in 2009.
But this was Halep’s first WTA 1000 final since she won the 2020 Rome title just under two years ago. Despite that gap, Halep proved her experience at that level was second to none, holding off World No.24 Haddad Maia and improving to 3-1 against the rising Brazilian.
2⃣4⃣th career singles title ✔️— wta (@WTA) August 14, 2022
9⃣th 1000 level crown ✔️
🇷🇴 @Simona_Halep is a CHAMPION once again! 🏆#NBO22 pic.twitter.com/GYv7dKqlfe
Tale of the match: In the closely contested affair, Halep had two fewer winners than Haddad Maia, but she also had four fewer unforced errors despite nine double faults. Halep gritted out the victory after converting five of her 10 break points. Haddad Maia was 4-for-9.
Halep had four double faults in her opening service game, but she rebounded from a 3-0 deficit to sweep six games in a row for the one-set lead. Haddad Maia built another hefty lead in the second set, jumping out 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 margin on her groundstrokes to ease ahead 4-1. As the set progressed, Halep stayed focused and aggressive when she needed to be, 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, exhibited strong play in the forecourt to hold for 5-3. But Halep was up to the task of serving out the match, opening that game with a passing winner as she went on to wrap up the title.