MONTREAL, Canada - Top seed and World No.1 Simona Halep advanced to her third career final on Canadian soil with a 6-4, 6-1 semifinal victory over Ashleigh Barty at the Coupe Rogers on Saturday afternoon.
The 2016 champion in Montreal, Halep also finished runner-up to Belinda Bencic in Toronto in 2015, and cruised into her third championship match at the Premier 5 event by winning seven of the last eight games.
"I think I played smart tennis today. I pushed her...on her backhand, then I could just receive a shorter ball, an easier ball for me to open the court," Halep assessed post-match.
"I just went all the way also on her forehand, short, cross, long, everything. I played some slices. I think the match was a very good level of tennis even if the rhythm was a little bit mixed."
Facing off against the 22-year-old Aussie for the first time in their careers, Halep won four of the first five games of the encounter, and broke Barty twice. However, the Aussie pulled closer to the Romanian with her first, and lone, break of serve in the sixth game, and held serve for the duration of the set to stay in touch.
"I broke, but then I lost the serve, so I was a little bit upset about that," Halep said. "It's really important to win on my return, the games on my return, because I feel really confident on that."
Though Barty landed 71 percent of her first serves in the match, the World No.1 made her pay when she was forced to hit a second serve in the opener, going 7-for-10 on those points.
The second set began in similar fashion for the French Open champion, as she won the first four games of the set, saving four break points in all from 0-40 down a lengthy fourth game to keep a double break advantage, and later saved two more break points in the sixth game of the match.
She added: "In the second set when I broke, I just said I have to hold my serve, which I did. It was much better in the second set. I feel like my return is growing up. I have more confidence.
"Actually when I started the tournament, I was really down with my return because I couldn't feel it. Now I'm at a good level, so I'm happy about my game."
Ultimately, it was that clutch play on the biggest points which helped the World No.1 emerge victorious from the 70-minute semifinal.
Halep was a perfect 4-for-4 on break point chances to begin the match, before the Aussie dug out of a 0-40 hole in the final match's game before succumbing to defeat by double faulting the Romanian's fourth match point.
Conversely, Barty managed to win just one of seven break point chances which she created in the match, and racked up 37 unforced errors.
Halep will look to capture her second career title in Canada on Sunday against Sloane Stephens or Elina Svitolina.
"I just want to give my best tomorrow and to enjoy the final because it's a great thing after a long break to play final at a big tournament," she said.
"The experience and the great moments that I had two years ago. It's always nice to play here, always I say, and I feel it. Probably is going to be a similar match 2016 [against Madison Keys] if Stephens wins. If not, against Svitolina we know it's tough match every time."