By Max Gao
Two-time champion Simona Halep notched her fourth victory in as many meetings with Coco Gauff on Friday afternoon, defeating the rising American star, 6-4, 7-6(2), to move into the semifinals of the 2022 National Bank Open presented by Rogers.
The two-time Grand Slam champion, who is seeded 15th this week in Toronto, will now face No. 7 seed Jessica Pegula, who knocked out Kazakhstan’s Yulia Putintseva, 6-3, 6-3, to close out the day session at Sobeys Stadium.
Coming into their third meeting of the year, Halep had yet to drop a set against Gauff in any of their previous meetings, with Gauff not having taken more than four games in a single set.
The pair exchanged early breaks to start the match, but Halep soon began to settle down, attacking and wearing down Gauff’s forehand while maintaining her signature consistency.
Halep earned a decisive break in a drawn-out fifth game, converting her second break point when another one of Gauff’s forehands went astray. The Romanian saved two break points at 4-3, but she was relatively untroubled on serve for the rest of the set, closing it out with an ace to move within a set of the final four.
Buoyed by the support of the Romanian contingent, Halep, who also reached the final in Toronto in 2015, carried the momentum into the second set, taking advantage of loose errors, especially off the forehand, from Gauff to race out to a double-break advantage.
From there, they exchanged three breaks in a row, with Gauff beginning to come out on top in some of the longer rallies. The American teenager had two opportunities to break while trailing 3-4 and was unable to convert.
But a couple of games later, while Halep served for the match at 5-4, Gauff was able to raise her level to break back to stay in the tournament. Halep quickly responded by breaking again, but her second attempt to close out the match was unsuccessful.
In the tiebreak, Halep continued to read Gauff’s serve well while the American came undone by her unforced errors. The Romanian remained solid off the ground to wrap up the match in an hour and 47 minutes.
In the second quarterfinal of the day, Pegula, who is now sitting at a career-high ranking of No. 7 in the world, was locked in from the start against Putintseva, saving the only break point she faced in the match in the opening game and converting her second opportunity in the following game to move up an early break. That break ultimately proved decisive, as Pegula dropped just five points in the rest of her service games to win the opener in 41 minutes.
Putintseva, who is known for being one of the feistiest competitors on tour, was unable to hit through Pegula, who was able to control many of the points off the ground with her strong serve and heavy forehand. The American broke to draw first blood in the fifth game of the second set and, despite some notable resistance from her Kazakh counterpart, converted her fifth match point when Putintseva double faulted at the end of a marathon, five-deuce ninth game to secure the win in an hour and 21 minutes.
Pegula, who reached the semifinals in Montreal last year, will face off against Halep for the first time tomorrow.