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Back on top – Halep notches biggest title of 2022, and a return to top-10

Simona Halep produced a vintage perormance, gutting out a three-set victory over surging Brasilian Beatriz Haddad Maia.

Simona Halep Toronto 2022 Simona Halep celebrates a victory in Toronto || AI / Reuters

After a 2021 marred by injuries and instability, former world No 1 Simona Halep continues to progress up the rankings in 2022. Now working with coach Patrick Mouratoglou since the spring, and in firm possession of her once lost inner “fire”, Halep demonstrated that she’s very much in the running for the biggest titles that the sport has to offer on Sunday, grinding past Beatriz Haddad Maia of Brasil with a vintage performance that featured the world-class wheels and indefatigableness that defined the Romanian during her glory years.

Halep’s 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 triumph marks her 24th career title and her third in Canada, where only Monica Seles and Chris Evert have won more.

The 30-year-old adapted to the constant pressure that was delivered by Haddad Maia, the first Brasilian reach a 100-level final, impressively. Halep clawed her way out of a 3-0 deficit in the opening set by digging into her baseline and probing her opponent as she stretched out rallies and worked Haddad Maia over with depth and variation.

Though the two-time Slam champion dropped the middle set, the same tactics opened up opportunities for Halep in the third set, the Romanian overcoming a player that had won her last seven matches against top-20 talent by goading her into a war of attrition from the baseline. Halep didn’t take on much risk at all over the course of the pair’s two hour and 17-minute encounter; instead she blanketed the court and forced Haddad Maia into enough mistakes to win her the match.

Halep – I did not expect to be here

Halep has spoken often this summer about how her new relationship with Patrick Mouratoglou has helped her find her legendary battle lust once again.

“Patrick. He brought it,” she said when asked where her new lease on life had come from in recent months. “I felt that I still can do it. I still have it inside myself. So that’s why I’m still working hard.”

On Sunday she thanked her coach and added that she’s looking ahead to many more victories on tour. Halep improves to 24-18 in WTA finals, and claims her ninth 1000-level title. She will return to No 6 in Monday’s WTA rankings – her highest ranking since May of 2021 when her injury woes began last year with a debilitating calf injury that would end up forcing her out of Roland-Garros, the Olympics and Wimbledon.

“A few months ago I was not thinking that I would be lifting this trophy today,” Halep told the crowd after her triumph. “Thanks to Patrick, thank you for believing in me and being by my side, since a few months ago – hopefully I made you proud today even if I didn’t play great, I fought, and that’s important. Hopefully we will have many more titles together.”

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