Tennis·ROUNDUP

2-time champion Simona Halep advances to National Bank Open final in Toronto

Two-time champion Simona Halep beat Jessica Pegula of the United States 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the National Bank Open's first semifinal on Saturday in Toronto. The 15th seed will face Brazil's Beatriz Haddad Maia in Sunday's final at 1:30 p.m. ET

Hubert Hurkacz to face Pablo Carreno Busta on men's side in Montreal later Sunday

Romania's Simona Halep celebrates after beating United States' Jessica Pegula in Women's National Bank Open tennis semifinal action in Toronto on Saturday. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

Overcome with frustration, Simona Halep doubled over and started smashing her racket on the hard court at Sobeys Stadium after she missed a return late in the third set of her semifinal.

The two-time champion harnessed that passion to beat Jessica Pegula of the United States 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the National Bank Open's first semifinal on Saturday. The 15th-seeded Halep will face Brazil's Beatriz Haddad Maia in Sunday's final at 1:30 p.m. ET.

Haddad Maia beat Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic 6-4, 7-6 (9) in the late semifinal to reach a WTA Masters event final for the first time ever.

Halep said that destroying her racket shows that she's herself again.

"The fire is back," said a smiling Halep. "It's a good sign if I do that. It looks like I'm fighting. It helps me sometimes. I don't know if it's always good or not, but it helps me."

Halep started her season with a victory at the Melbourne Summer Set 1. Although it was the 23rd title of her career, it was the first since 2020. In early April she announced she would begin working with coach Patrick Mouratoglou.

She said that Mouratoglou's influence has rekindled her passion for tennis.

"The person next to us. Patrick. He brought it," said Halep, gesturing toward Mouratoglou. She said that training at his tennis school in the French Riviera has been inspirational.

"The vibe from the academy gave me the energy. To see all those kids fighting every day to touch the dream that they have — I felt that I still can do it. I still have it inside myself."

The WTA event was hard on seeded players with the top six all being eliminated before the quarterfinals. Haddad Maia was responsible for three of those upsets, taking down 13th seeded Leylah Fernandez of Laval, Que., world No. 1 Iga Swiatek, and 14th seeded Pliskova.

A year ago Haddad Maia was ranked 183rd in the world, she entered this week's tournament No. 24 and will crack the top 20 next week.

Pegula was the highest rated player left in the tournament as the seventh seed. The 14th-seeded Pliskova is now the highest rated player after a series of upsets on the women's side of Canada's professional tennis championship.

Both Halep and Pegula were visibly frustrated with their own play in the third set after several unforced errors or double faults. Halep finished the match with 10 double faults to Pegula's one, but the American struggled with the placement of her returns.

Romanian flags dotted the stands at the tennis-specific venue on York University's campus and Halep, who won what was then called the Rogers Cup in 2016 and 2018, said she appreciated the support.

"Actually, it felt like we were in Romania today," she said. "Many people were supporting me. Actually, I felt like everyone was supporting me.

Halep led 5-3 in the third set and fired a forehand past Pegula for a 40-15 advantage in the ninth game. Pegula responded by saving two match points to bring the score to deuces.

Halep smashed her racket on the ground repeatedly after her shot went wide to give Pegula advantage, but the American put a shot into the net to bring it back to deuces.

Halep kept hammering the ball to Pegula's backhand but the American fended off two match points to stay alive at 5-4.

Holding serve on match point, Halep forced Pegula to put her forehand into the net to complete the comeback and reach the tournament's final.

Pegula teamed with fellow American Coco Gauff later Saturday in the semifinal of the doubles tournament, beating Madison Keys of the U.S. and India's Sania Mirza 7-5, 7-5 to advance to Sunday.

Ottawa's Gabriela Dabrowski and Mexican partner Giuliana Olmos were eliminated Saturday night in a tense semifinal doubles match against American Nicole Melichar-Martinez and Australia's Ellen Perez, who won 7-6 (5), 6-3.

Hurkacz heads to final with win over Ruud

Casper Ruud let the opening game of the decisive set slip away Saturday at the National Bank Open. Hubert Hurkacz took advantage, sealing an important break when his return hit the net cord and trickled over, before rolling to victory.

Hurkacz secured a berth in Sunday's final in Montreal with a 5-7, 6-3, 6-2 victory at IGA Stadium. He'll face Pablo Carreno Busta for the title at 4 p.m. ET after the Spaniard posted a 7-5, 6-7 (7), 6-2 win over Britain's Daniel Evans in the evening semifinal.

The eighth-seeded Hurkacz from Poland picked up a break in the opening game of the deciding set and rolled to victory.

Ruud, the No. 4 seed from Norway, eliminated Montreal's Felix Auger-Aliassime — the last Canadian remaining in the field — a day earlier.

Hurkacz had an 18-8 edge in aces over the Norwegian and completed the win in two hours, two minutes.

"I think I found a good rhythm and I was making the right decisions," he said.

Hurkacz relied on his big serve with five aces in the opening game alone, but he also kept Ruud guessing throughout the match. His serve-and-volley game was working well and he occasionally used an effective floating drop from the backcourt.

Hurkacz dictated play more often in the third set and connected on more winners. A sizzling two-handed cross-court backhand sealed another break for a 3-0 edge and he was on his way to a second career appearance in a Masters 1000 final.

Hurkacz beat Italy's Jannik Sinner in last year's Miami final.

Carreno Busta, Evans treat fans to great rallies

The evening semifinal was a rollicking affair between world No. 23 Carreno Busta and the 32nd-ranked Evans.

The ATP Tour veterans treated fans to some great rallies in their first career meeting. Evans got the first set back on serve with a break at 5-5 but Carreno Busta broke right back before serving out.

Evans pressed in the second set — buoyed by his stellar net game — and jumped out to a 3-0 lead. Carreno Busta came back to force a tiebreaker but Evans saved a match ball before converting his second set point.

Carreno Busta rebounded by picking up a break midway through the third set and closing the nearly three-hour match with another. He will make his first career Masters 1000 final appearance.

In doubles, the third-seeded duo of Neal Skupski of Britain and Wesley Koolhof of the Netherlands defeated the German pairing of Kevin Krawietz and Andrea Mies 3-6, 6-2, 10-8.

And in the final doubles match of the night, Evans and Australia's John Peers defeated Hurkacz and Jan Zielinksi of Poland 7-5, 4-6, 10-4 in the semifinals.

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