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By Richard Pagliaro | Sunday, August 14, 2022

 
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Declaring "the fire is back," Simona Halep brought burning baseline intensity beating Beatriz Haddad Maia 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 to win her 24th career title in Toronto.

Photo credit: Getty

Channeling consistency and combustibility, Simona Halep is queen of Canada again.

A day after declaring "the fire is back," Halep brought burning baseline intensity beating Beatriz Haddad Maia 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 to capture her 24th career title in Toronto.

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It is Halep's third National Bank Open championship and her first in Toronto after collecting the 2016 and 2018 titles in Montreal. Contesting her fourth Canadian Masters final, Halep will return to the Top 10 for the first time in a year as she comes in at No. 6 in the live rankings.

"I've been many years there. But now I feel like it's a big deal to be back in top 10," Halep told the media in Toronto. "I'm really happy with this performance.

"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 very special moment. I will enjoy it. I will give myself credit. I'm just dreaming for more."

Halep scored her record-extending 185th career WTA 1000 match win; her 24th titles are fourth most among active women behind Serena Williams (73), Venus Williams (49) and Petra Kvitova (29).

The 30-year-old Romanian raised her 2022 record to 38-10, which is second most wins on the WTA Tour behind only to world No. 1 Iga Swiatek.




It was the 24th-ranked Haddad Maia who made history as the first Brazilian woman to beat a reigning WTA world No. 1 when she knocked Swiatek off in the quarterfinals.

Ultimately, today's fourth meeting between Halep and Haddad Maia came down to the Romanian's skill extending points edging the left-hander's aim to exterminate points.

Tennis Express

The first Brazilian to contest a WTA 1000, Haddad Maia looked much more relaxed than Halep at the outset.

The former world No. 1 spit up four double faults—all into net—gifting the break and a 2-0 lead to the left hander. Four of Halep's nine double faults came in that opening service game.

Haddad Maia saved break points extending her lead to 3-0.



A frustrated Halep began to calm down, crack deeper drives and extend points.

Patiently probing the corners and stretching the lanky Brazilian, Halep broke back in the fifth game. Snapping off an ace out wide, Halep held at 30 leveling at 3-3 after 33 minutes. That hearty hold spiked a chorus of "Simona! Simona!" chants from fans waving Romanian flags.

Imposing her superior court coverage and consistency, Halep was carving Haddad Maia up in longer points. Halep drew successive forehand errors breaking for 4-3.




The Halep backhand return down the line was a weapon on the ad side as Haddad Maia repeatedly hit the slider serve to try to drag the Romanian wide. A Haddad Maia double fault gave Halep set points. Halep opened the court with a backhand then banged a backhand down the line leaving the Brazilian swinging at air. Halep reeled off her sixth straight game to snatch a one-set lead after 40 minutes.

Beaten up in longer rallies, Haddad Maia shifted her approach and tried to play off the front foot earlier in points. The world No. 24 broke at 30 to open the second set and saved a break point to back up the break.

The 26-year-old Haddad Maia was calling the shots and pressuring Halep with her aggression. Haddad Maia spooked Halep into double-faulting another break as she gained a 3-0 lead.

Hitting declarative drives, Haddad Maia rallied from love-30 down holding to extend to 4-0.

Haddad Maia won eight of the last 10 points played on her serve, wrapping the second set to force a decider.

Throughout the tournament, Halep reset under stress and responded with baseline answers. The two-time champion did it again, dragging successive errors from her opponent to break for a 2-0 lead in the final set.




Brazilian and Romanian fans traded cheers backing their players as Haddad Maia pasted the baseline with a backhand to break in the third game only to see Halep, whose backhand down the line was a key stroke, break right back in the fourth game.

"For me it's great to have such a big support because it's, like, pushing you in tough moments," Halep said. "And they were cheering for me every single point, even if I was down during the match. It's super important because you feel that you have so many people next to you, and you feel stronger a little bit.

"But today was a great atmosphere for her as well. So I think the match was great because we've been pushed so much by the crowd as well."

The 15th-seeded Romanian roared back from 15-30 down confirming the break with a fine running forehand for 4-1. Working the ball side-to-side, Halep swooped forward to thump a smash punctuating a love hold for 5-2.

Serving for the title, Halep ended an extended exchange with a crackling crosscourt forehand pass to open. Slashing a slider serve brought Halep to triple championship point.




The 30-year-old Halep sealed her 24th career championship on a netted return and thrust her arms toward the sky absorbing the joy of her first title since Melbourne 250 in January and the appreciate roars of "Simona! Simona!" from fans.


 

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