By Max Gao
After knocking out World No. 1 Iga Świątek, Canadian No. 1 Leylah Fernandez and reigning Olympic gold medalist Belinda Bencic, Brazil’s Beatriz Haddad Maia continued her fairy-tale run in Toronto, upsetting No. 14 seed and former U.S. Open finalist Karolina Pliskova, 6-4, 7-6(7), to move into the final of the 2022 National Bank Open presented by Rogers.
The first Brazilian to reach a WTA 1000 final, Haddad Maia will face off against No. 15 seed and two-time champion Simona Halep, who defeated No. 7 seed Jessica Pegula earlier in the day. Halep has won two of their first three meetings, but Haddad Maia came out on top in three sets when they met at the Birmingham Classic a couple of months ago.
Having split her first two meetings with Pliskova, Haddad Maia, who began the week ranked No. 24 in the world but will break into at least the Top 16 on Monday, knew she had to make a quick start against the Czech. The Brazilian converted her fourth break point in the opening game, using her big lefty serve and forehand while neutralizing Pliskova’s own power to jump out to an early lead.
Haddad Maia later secured a second break to lead 4-1, but she lost one of them when serving for the set at 5-2 in a marathon six-deuce game in which she squandered three set points. However, the additional break gave her another chance to serve for the set at 5-4, and she converted her fourth set point when Pliskova’s forehand return found the net.
In a topsy-turvy second set, Pliskova responded by earning an early break and jumping out to an early 3-0 lead. She would maintain this advantage until 5-3, when Haddad Maia, who had a short lapse in concentration but continued to grind out every point, broke to stay in the set.
For the rest of the second, Haddad Maia continued to go toe-to-toe with Pliskova, with the Brazilian countering the Czech’s flat groundstrokes with more spin and angles, resulting in some of the best rallies of the match.
In the tiebreak, Haddad Maia and Pliskova traded minibreaks, and the Czech had a set point at 7-6. But it was Haddad Maia who was able to play the big points better, staying solid off the ground while Pliskova buckled under pressure. With a double fault from Pliskova on match point, Haddad Maia moved into Sunday’s showpiece, much to the delight of the Brazilian contingent in Toronto.
In doubles action, Canadian and defending champion Gabriela Dabrowski fell in straight sets with partner Giuliana Olmos to the unseeded team of Nicole Melichar-Martinez and Ellen Perez. Melichar-Martinez and Perez won 7-6(5), 6-3, to move into Sunday’s final, where they will meet No. 3 seeds Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula. Gauff will be playing to become the new World No. 1 in doubles.
Dabrowski and Olmos, who are currently No. 1 in the Race to the WTA Finals, earned an early break to lead 3-1 in the opener, but Melichar-Martinez and Perez hit back a few games later, recovering the break with some powerful play. In the tiebreak, both teams had their fair share of chances, but it was Melichar-Martinez and Perez who were, more often than not, able to get in the first strike, with Melichar converting the team’s first set point with a strong volley.
The unseeded team was able to pick up right where they left off in the second, breaking to lead 3-1 and consolidating their advantage to eventually seal the match in an hour and 22 minutes.