Simona Halep captures 3rd National Bank Open women's title, beating Haddad Maia
Pablo Carreno Busta defeats Hubert Hurkacz to win men's title
Simona Halep can't say which of her National Bank Open titles means the most to her, but she knows she'll never forget her third.
Halep beat Brazil's Beatriz Haddad Maia 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 on Sunday in the WTA event's final. The Romanian also won the title in Montreal in 2016 and 2018 when the tournament was called the Rogers Cup.
"It's tough to compare. I'm a different person. I've changed so much. But the happiness of winning a title is the same," said the 30-year-old Halep with the National Bank Open trophy beside her. "This tournament is a pretty big tournament, it's a great tournament.
That confidence and optimistic outlook are marked changes for Halep, who admitted earlier this season that she was considering retiring from professional tennis in 2021 after falling out of the top-10 of the world rankings.
But this win — the 24th title of her career and first since switching to Patrick Mouratoglou as her coach in April — will propel her to No. 6 in the rankings.
"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," said Halep. "So it's a very special moment.
"I will enjoy it. I will give myself credit. I'm just dreaming for more."
The 26-year-old Haddad Maia has yet to win a tennis tournament at this level but she has rocketed up the WTA Tour's standings this year.
WATCH | Halep shines in Toronto, earning 24th career title:
She upset three seeded players at the National Bank Open: 13th-seeded Leylah Fernandez of Laval, Que., world No. 1 Iga Swiatek, 12th-seeded Belinda Bencic and 14th-seeded Karolina Pliskova in succession before pushing Halep to three sets in her first-ever Masters 1000 final.
Haddad Maia was ranked 183rd in the world in 2021, but entered this tournament as No. 24 and will crack the top-20 next week based on her strong play at Sobeys Stadium.
"I think we are improving a lot every single day," said Haddad Maia. "Not even in the matches, but, outside of the Tour, when we are practising.
"We are taking care of my body. We are doing good things."
Some Brazilian fans — many of them in yellow national soccer kit — started chanting "Bee-ah! Bee-ah!" to cheer on Haddad-Maia as she took a 3-0 lead in the opening set.
"I think Brazilians are not used to cheering for tennis," said Haddad Maia with a laugh. "Sometimes they scream a little bit more. They think they are in a soccer game.
"I was happy to hear a lot of 'Bias,' 'come on Bia,' 'vamos Bia,' 'keep fighting."'
'I really wanted to win it in Toronto'
Haddad Maia's supporters were soon drowned out by Romanian fans' chants of "See-moh-nah! See-moh-nah!" The sizable Romanian contingent had inspired Halep before she even stepped on centre court.
"I really wanted to win it in Toronto," said Halep, referring to her previous victories in Montreal. "There are many Romanians here and they always come out to support me.
"I'm really happy that I could win also here."
The chanting seemed to rouse Halep. A deep forehand return on set point was just out of the reach of Haddad Maia's extended racket and sealed six consecutive games for Halep as rallied to take the first set.
"I try to forgive myself, even if I miss, if I did something wrong," said Haddad Maia about recovering to win the second set. "Even when I lost six games in a row, I think Simona wasn't playing her best tennis also so maybe she could be nervous as well at this moment."
Halep's overhand smash at the net gave her a 5-2 lead in the third set and whipped the fans into another chant of "See-moh-nah!"
Haddad Maia stayed in the match, winning another game when her high backhanded volley dropped in to make it 5-3. Holding a 40-15 advantage in the ninth game of the third set, Halep clinched her first title in Toronto when Haddad Maia put her return into the net.
Later, the American duo of Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula beat Nicole Melichar-Martinez and Australia's Ellen Pere 6-4, 7-6, (10) to claim the doubles title.
Pablo Carreno Busta wins men's National Bank Open
Pablo Carreno Busta defied the odds all week at the National Bank Open. The unseeded Spaniard didn't let up in Sunday's final.
He overcame a slow start for a 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory over eighth-seeded Hubert Hurkacz of Poland to win a Masters 1000 title for the first time in his career.
"It's an amazing feeling," he said. "I worked very, very hard [throughout] my career to finally be here."
Steady shotmaking and overall consistency were the difference in a final that turned early in the second set. A Hurkacz double-fault and three missed forehands gave Carreno Busta a 2-0 lead and momentum ahead of the decisive set.
He earned another early break in the third that forced Hurkacz to press more often. The Polish player had an 18-4 edge in aces but Carreno Busta attacked his second serve and broke him again to finish the match in one hour 45 minutes.
"It's the little things that make a big difference," Hurkacz said. "If you don't make your first serves and with Pablo making some good returns, then you're under a lot of pressure."
WATCH | Carreno Busta defeats Hurkacz:
Carreno Busta became the first unseeded player to win this tournament since Argentina's Guillermo Canas in 2002.
It was the seventh ATP Tour title of his career.
"It's not the first one, but it's for sure the most important," Carreno Busta said. "It's a Masters 1000. It's something great to win these kind of titles."
The sellout crowd of 11,715 at IGA Stadium was also treated to one of the standout rallies of the tournament. The third-set point went Carreno Busta's way and Hurkacz never recovered.
After a series of groundstrokes, Carreno Busta came to the net and hit a deep shot that an outstretched Hurkacz lobbed across the court to the back corner.
The Spaniard managed to chase it down and skied a desperation floater that landed just inside the line. Hurkacz couldn't put away an overhead shot and Carreno Busta found himself back in the rally.
Carreno Busta soon returned to the net for a drop that Hurkacz lunged for on the backhand side. Carreno Busta cut off the return with a jumping backhand putaway that electrified the crowd.
The Spaniard extended his arms outward as he took in the standing ovation. Hurkacz chucked his racket on the hard court in frustration.
'My game during the week was very, very high'
"I think it was an incredible point," Carreno Busta said. "It's just one point, but it was very, very good for the confidence."
Hurkacz, who won his first Masters 1000 title last year in Miami, fell to 5-1 in ATP Tour finals. The 23rd-ranked Carreno Busta improved to 7-5 in final appearances.
The Spaniard upset No. 11 Matteo Berrettini in the first round and took out another Italian in No. 7 Jannik Sinner in the third round. Carreno Busta didn't lose a set until he was pushed the distance by Britain's Daniel Evans in the semifinals.
"My game during the week was very, very high," Carreno Busta said. "I played really [well)]from the first match against Berrettini until the last one against Hubie."
Hurkacz had his power game working in the early going on a glorious midsummer afternoon.
He led all players in aces this week and his serve was in form again as he controlled the first set in a tidy 31 minutes. But Carreno Busta upped his pace and seemed to figure out Hurkacz's game.
Carreno Busta couldn't match Hurkacz's service power — few players can — but quality placement and nice touch on his volleys proved effective.
Carreno Busta earned US$915,295 of the $6.57-million overall purse. Hurkacz picked up $499,830 as a finalist.
In the doubles final, the third-seeded duo of Wesley Koolhof of the Netherlands and Neal Skupski of Britain defeated Evans and John Peers of Australia 6-2, 4-6, 10-6.
Organizers said a total of 237,733 spectators took in the action through the week, a men's tournament record at this venue. The previous high of 223,023 was set in 2019, the last time this event was held at full capacity.
Unseeded American Reilly Opelka reached last year's final in Toronto before losing to top-ranked Daniil Medvedev of Russia.
The men's tournament will be played next year in Toronto and the women's WTA Tour event will return to Montreal.