TORONTO — Blue, yellow and red flags flew and fans chanted “Si-Mo-Na! Si-Mo-Na!” as Simona Halep stood on center court with her fists clenched and both hands firmly in the air, where she held them for quite a while looking up at the sky.
On Sunday afternoon, the 30-year-old Romanian won the National Bank Open with a three-set victory over Beatriz Haddad-Maia, the unranked Brazilian who had been a giant slayer this week, but not so in the final. against the woman who has now won three incredible titles in Canada.
And while Halep loves playing in this country – she called it “special” in her post-game speech, which had the crowd raving – the fact is that Toronto in particular really loves Halep. Romanian flags absolutely towered over the crowd on Sunday, with some wearing Romanian-colored jester and cowboy hats, and others holding signs saying “We love Simona!”
Fans who helped make this the highest-attended women’s event in tournament history were going absolutely nuts watching Halep win. Their hoarse chants occurred throughout the match, and so often that the chair umpire had to repeatedly say “thank you” and “please” in his suave tone to silence them so that the game can resume.
“For me, it’s great to have such great support because it pushes you through tough times,” Halep said after the game, wearing a Nike sweatshirt and black shorts and sneakers, with her trophy sitting on a table in front of her. “They were cheering me on every point, even though I was down during the game. It’s super important because you feel you have so many people next to you, and you feel a bit stronger.
Halep feels much stronger than she did a few months ago. And, as of Monday, she will regain her place in the world top 10.
“I spent many years there, but now I feel like it’s important to be back in the top 10,” the two-time Grand Slam winner said with a smile. “I’m really happy with this performance. When I started the year I was not very confident and I set myself the goal of being, at the end of the year, in the top 10. And here I am. So it’s a very special moment. I’ll enjoy. I’ll take credit. I just dream of more.
And it’s also huge for Halep to dream more. Earlier this season she said she was considering taking a step back from tennis, but then she started working with coach Patrick Mouratoglou, and she says she has found her “fire” again.
The fire was in this championship game, of course. It featured incredible rallies and was an up and down battle, more so than the final score of 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 suggests.
Halep did herself a disservice at first. In her first service game, she committed four double faults, including a break point. The serve was his biggest fight all week.
“Oh, yeah, terrible,” Halep said. “I was a little stressed. I did not expect to make four double faults in one game. I don’t know if it happened before. But sometimes you have to accept that you’re not great at times, and you’re still struggling to calm down and regain your confidence.
And did she ever come back from that brutal start. Down 0-3 in the opening set, Halep not only held serve for the first time on Sunday in the Championship, but she finished one of her service games with an emphatic ace, and she won six straight matches. to win the first set with a cross court. winner. After the set point, Halep leaned over and delivered a hearty fist bump as the crowd roared and waved their flags.
“I was on three and I couldn’t hold back the emotions, I couldn’t control myself,” said Haddad Maia, who beat world No. 1 Iga Swiatek earlier this week and entered the history as the first Brazilian. to clinch the final of a WTA 1000 event. “Simona started playing better, getting better.”
Halep also struggled with emotions on Sunday, which she said explained her slow start. “Normally I get rid of it quickly,” she said. “But today also its spin [because Haddad Maia is a lefty], I needed some time to get used to it. And, yes, I just calmed down after 0-3. Then I think I found a good rhythm. I played what I had to play. That’s why I was able to win six games in a row.
But it was all Haddad Maia in the second set. When the Brazilian earned a break point with a passing shot as Halep was at the net, Halep whipped her racquet down the court in frustration, then hit her thigh several times when Haddad Maia converted on this breaking point. World No. 24 also kept rolling: Haddad Maia took a 4-0 lead and didn’t look back, sparking the Brazilian fans in attendance, who burst into “Ole, ole, ole, old, Bi – a, bi-a! chants as she forced a third set.
“I think Brazilians don’t usually shout for tennis,” Haddad Maia said, with a smile. “Sometimes they scream a little more. They think they are in a football game.
And it created a great atmosphere.
Halep regained control early in the third set, using his first break point opportunity to take a 2-0 lead as Haddad Maia fired a long shot. In the final game of the match, Halep had the kind of amazing shot that helped get her here. Haddad Maia was at net, and as Halep raced to land a forehand, she ripped through a crosscourt winner, switching from defense to immediate attack, and sending the crowd into another tizzy for their eventual champion.
On Monday, Halep heads to Cincinnati for her next event. “So I’m going to train, it’s going to be a party,” she said. “There is no time for partying.”
Well, maybe not for the woman who started the party, but I bet there are more than a few Romanians celebrating in her honor in and around Toronto. Sunday marks Halep’s first victory in this city, after winning her last two Canadian titles in the other host city, Montreal.
“There are a lot of Romanians here and they always come to support me,” she said. “I’m really happy that I was able to win here too.”