TORONTO • Swiss teenager Belinda Bencic capped a brilliant run to the Rogers Cup title on Sunday when an ill second seed Simona Halep retired from the final after losing the first three games of the third set.
Bencic - who will represent the Singapore Slammers in December's International Premier Tennis League - needed nearly 2hr 30min on a sweltering centre court at Toronto's Aviva Centre to see off a determined Halep 7-6 (7-5), 6-7 (4-7), 3-0.
Apart from claiming the biggest title of her young career, Bencic has also put down a marker as a player to watch at the upcoming US Open.
The 18-year-old's Rogers Cup debut was memorable as her road to the title included a stunning semi-final upset of world No. 1 Serena Williams and two former top-ranked players in fourth seed Caroline Wozniacki and fifth seed Ana Ivanovic.
"I'm really sorry it had to end like this, I am really sorry for Simona, I hope she will be fine for the next tournament," said Bencic.
"For me, it has been an incredible week, I cannot believe it.
"A win is a win and I had to fight really hard today."
It was her second title in two months, following her breakthrough win at the Aegon International on grass in England in June.
She arrived in Toronto ranked 20th in the world but climbed eight places to 12th after the latest WTA rankings were released yesterday.
Halep produced a gutsy effort but the Romanian appeared in trouble right from the start.
She struggled with the heat and a sore left thigh that required treatment throughout the match, including a medical time-out when the medical staff checked the player's blood pressure.
"In the first set, I felt a little bit (pain) in the muscle and then it was going to the knee and, in the second set, I felt bad, like stomach cramps and dizzy and stuff like that," explained Halep. "I was thinking that I need a miracle to finish the match.
"I tried just to finish the match, but at 3-0, I said it is no sense to continue, and I stopped."
Down 3-5 in the second and with Bencic serving for the match, Halep dug deep into her reserves and forced the set to a tie-break which she won to thundering applause from the sun-baked crowd.
But the effort to force a third set proved too much.
"I don't know why I continued to play, maybe for the fans," said the 23-year-old.
"They were like screaming all the time to push me to still play.
"I have no idea why I still played the second set but I did great, and I'm happy that I could find the power to win the second set."