by Ben Lewis
Semifinal Saturday is finally here!
After five days of scintillating hard-court tennis on the grounds of the National Bank Open, we’re now into the late weekend stage of the event with our final four in singles and one Canadian still competing in doubles.
Here are four things to watch this Saturday on your 407 ETR Morning Commute:
Simona Halep seeks a fourth career NBO final
It’s always been a love affair between Simona Halep and Canada.
The Romanian tends to bring her best brand of counterpunching tennis when she visits Canada, using her remarkable court coverage and smooth groundstrokes to befuddle her opponents.
The full set of skills were on display in a tight 6-4, 7-6 victory over Coco Gauff, which now pushes her to 25-6 in her career from the National Bank Open.
An intriguing matchup now awaits against American Jessica Pegula, who defended last year’s semifinal points in Montreal, returning to the final four with a clean 6-3, 6-3 win over Kazakhstan’s Yulia Putintseva.
Halep relished the opportunity to face Pegula for the first time in their respective careers.
“It’s going to be a big challenge to face a new opponent,” quipped Halep. “She’s solid, she’s in the top [of the game] already. She’s had a very good year. I will focus on myself and fight for the match.”
Pegula will eye her first career WTA 1000 final, while Halep seeks a fourth in Canada and 18th overall.
The pair will highlight the day session on Sobeys stadium. Match time 1:00 PM ET.
Beatriz eyeing Brazilian history
The Cinderella run from 26-year-old Brazilian Beatriz Haddad Maia continued last night from Sobeys Stadium as she produced a come-from-behind 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 win over the tournament’s 2015 champion, Belinda Bencic.
The powerful left-hander showed poise under pressure, staving off a pair of break point opportunities against her Swiss competitor at 3-3 in the final set before sprinting to the victory.
Haddad Maia is the first Brazilian woman or man to reach the semifinals in Canada since Gustavo Kuerten made the final in Montreal back in 1997.
She has also tallied two titles already this season, winning on grass in Nottingham and Birmingham, and was savouring every moment of love on Sobeys Stadium after her upset victory.
Haddad Maia will clash with Karolina Pliskova for a spot in the final.
Former world no. 1 Pliskova eyes another final in Canada
She’s a 16-time WTA singles winner, a two-time slam finalist, and former world no. 1.
Veteran Karolina Pliskova has managed to unlock her best tennis here in Toronto for the National Bank Open and outlasted Zheng Qinwen 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 in a late-night Sobeys stadium thriller that wrapped up at 12:10 AM ET.
The points tell the story in just how close the encounter was, as Pliskova edged out Zheng 104-103.
Pliskova now headlines the night session in Toronto against Beatriz Haddad Maia in a clash of huge servers.
The experienced Czech talent is seeking her first WTA final of 2022.
Gaby still leading Canadian contingency
She is the last Canadian standing in the National Bank Open.
Ottawa’s Gabriela Dabrowski and partner Giuliana Olmos of Mexico lit up the Grandstand court with a triumphant 2-6, 6-2, 10-0 victory over Andreja Klupac and Alexa Guarachi.
It was particularly a flawless performance in the 10-point tiebreak, as Gaby was clinical at net while Olmos produced consistent, reliable tennis.
Dabrowski was last year’s champion in Montreal, winning alongside Brazilian partner Luisa Stefani.
Since teaming up with Olmos this season, the two won a WTA 1000 crown in Rome, and reached the finals of Madrid.
They’ll meet Ellen Perez and Nicole Melichar-Martinez in the second night match up from Sobeys Stadium.
If you haven’t seen doubles live, it’s an experience to behold!
Under the lights, Gaby and co. are ready to put on a show.