Simona Halep will bid for a third Canadian title at the WTA Toronto Masters on Sunday against determined Brazilian outsider Beatriz Haddad Maia.
Haddad Maia stunned 2021 finalist Karolina Pliskova 6-4, 7-6 (7) in the semifinals while Halep put years of big-match experience to good use in a 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory over seventh-seeded American Jessica Pegula.
Halep, 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.
“We never played against each other,” Halep said. “So I didn’t really know what to expect.
“But it was a great fight. I’m really happy that I went through.
“Of course, I can improve,” Halep added. “But I’m building the confidence, I’m building the game, and I’m really happy that I’m in this position.”
Haddad Maia, who stunned World No 1 Iga 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 Masters event has now won 17 matches since June, when she won grasscourt 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 rollercoaster, 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.
Halep, who will return to the top-10 thanks to her victory, needed two and a quarter hours to knock out American Pegula, who was the highest seed left in the field.
The 30-year-old winner of Roland Garros and Wimbledon titles could return to sixth in the world if she beats Haddad Maia on Sunday.
She will again have experience on her side as she competes in her 18th career Masters final in search of her ninth title at the elite level.
Hurkacz sets up final with Carreno Busta
Hubert Hurkacz shrugged off a slow start to upset fourth seed Casper Ruud on Saturday and book a title clash with Pablo Carreno Busta at the ATP Montreal Masters.
Poland’s eighth-seeded Hurkacz needed two hours to claim a 5-7, 6-3, 6-2 victory over his Norwegian opponent, who had dropped just one set all week.
But his workload was minor compared to that of unseeded Spaniard Carreno Busta, who needed three hours to hold off Briton Daniel Evans 7-5, 6-7 (7), 6-2.
Carreno Busta had a match point in the second set tiebreaker but couldn’t close out victory for another 50 minutes, finally sprinting away as he won the last dozen points of the match.
Evans sent over his sixth double-fault of a long evening to surrender the contest.
Carreno Busta reached his first Masters final, where he’ll be vying to become the first unseeded Canadian champion since Argentina’s Guillermo Canas in 2002.
He fired 45 winners, but said he was pleased to get through despite not playing his best tennis.
“It’s important to win these kind of matches, I’m so happy to be in the final,” he said.
“Suddenly this week, my level has been unbelievable.”
Against Ruud, Hurkacz finished with 47 winners - including 18 aces - and 19 unforced errors, advancing on his second match point.
“I was just trying to stay in the match, he was better for the first set and a half,” Hurkacz said. “I just had to hold on and fight.”
Hurkacz has gone to three sets in each of his matches this week, but said he wasn’t feeling any physical toll.
“I feel good, I have energy,” he said. “So far so good.”
Hurkacz has won his first five ATP finals and is keen to carry on with his string of victories.
“I just try to compete as hard as I can, be as well-prepared (as possible)
“I was fortunate to win the first few finals. But tomorrow is a new match. It’s going to be a very tricky one.”