Simona Halep put years of big match experience to good use yesterday as she overhauled Jessica Pegula 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 to reach the final of the WTA Toronto Masters.
The former world number one 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 either Brazil’s Beatriz Haddad Maia or 2021 Czech finalist Karolina Pliskova. Halep lost the opening set against Pegula in 35 minutes but levelled at a set apiece thanks to an early break in the second. Halep 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.
Serena to face Raducanu
in Cincinnati opener
Serena Williams will face a challenging first-round clash with reigning US Open champion Emma Raducanu when the US tennis great’s farewell tour continues at Cincinnati next week. Williams, a 23-time Grand Slam champion, revealed this week that the “countdown has begun” to her retirement, with the 40-year-old expected to bid farewell after a final major campaign at the US Open starting later this month.
Williams won her first singles match in more than a year when she defeated Spain’s Nuria Parrizas Diaz in the first round at Toronto last week.
That was before she revealed in an article in Vogue and on Instagram that she was “evolving away” from tennis.
In her first match after the announcement, Williams fell in straight sets to Switzerland’s Tokyo Olympic gold medallist Belinda Bencic in the second round. Williams faces another tough path in Cincinnati, where she is a two-time champion.
The winner of Williams-Raducanu will face either 20th-ranked Victoria Azarenka or 31st-ranked Kaia Kanepi of Estonia. Azarenka, 33, is a two-time Grand Slam winner and former world number one who missed the Toronto tournament because of visa trouble.
Williams, who was 17 when she won the 1999 US Open for her first major title, has never played 19-year-old Briton Raducanu, who shot to stardom with her run to the US Open title last year as a qualifier. Since then, Raducanu has struggled to find momentum, exiting early at the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon.
Simona Halep reacts after defeating Jessica Pegula (not pictured) in their Toronto Masters match yesterday. (USA TODAY Sports)