Tennis: Halep reaches Toronto final with win over Pegula, will play Haddad Maia

Halep reacts after defeating Jessica Pegula, of the US. PHOTO: DAN HAMILTON/USA TODAY SPORTS

TORONTO, CANADA (AFP) - Simona Halep put years of big match experience to good use on Saturday (Aug 13) as she overhauled Jessica Pegula 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 to reach the final of the WTA Toronto Open.

The former world No. 1 from Romania, who won 2016 and 2018 trophies in Canada, showed her definitive return to form with the victory after dropping from the top 10 in the rankings a year ago due to injury.

Halep needed two and a quarter hours to knock out American Pegula, at seventh the highest-ranked player left in the field.

The 30-year-old winner of Roland Garros and Wimbledon titles could return to sixth in the world if she wins the Sunday final against the determined Brazilian outsider Beatriz Haddad Maia, who stunned 2021 finalist Karolina Pliskova 6-4, 7-6 (9-7) in their semi-final.

Halep lost the opening set against Pegula in 35 minutes but levelled at a set apiece thanks to an early break in the second.

The Romanian missed two match points on her opponent's serve and swiped her racquet angrily on the cement as Pegula held for 4-5 in the third.

But the two-time Grand Slam champion clinched the win on her third opportunity as Pegula hit the net with a return.

Halep saved 12 of the 17 break points she faced as she earned her 37th victory this season while playing in her seventh semi-final of 2022.

Haddad Maia, who stunned world No. 1 Ita Swiatek in the third round, blunted the noted serving attack of Czech Pliskova, who fired nine aces in defeat.

The first Brazilian to get to the final of a WTA 1000 event has now won 17 matches since June, when she won grass-court titles in Birmingham and Nottingham.

The South American, ranked 24th in the world, is guaranteed to breach the top 20 next week.

Her match was a roller coaster, with Haddad Maia fighting off Pliskova while leading 5-1 in the opening set.

Pliskova then seized a 4-1 lead in the second only for Haddad Maia to claw her way back.

“I feel happy, it’s a special moment,” Haddad Maia said. “I had a very tough draw.

“I had to push myself, I played (through) a lot of tough moments.

“I was especially down in the match that I was not playing well, but I was mentally strong. That’s why I’m having the chance to play tomorrow against Simona in the final.

“She’s a champion, a person who works very hard. I know it will be a very tough battle. But I’m going to enjoy and leave everything on the court.”

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.