Top-seeded Halep, third seed Stephens reach women's Rogers Cup final
Simona Halep of Romania returns to Ashleigh Barty of Australia during semifinals play at the Rogers Cup tennis tournament Saturday August 11, 2018 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Bill Beacon, The Canadian Press
Published Saturday, August 11, 2018 6:45PM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, August 11, 2018 9:19PM EDT
MONTREAL - Simona Halep has had the upper hand against Sloane Stephens in recent meetings, but that will be set aside when they meet in the final of the women's Rogers Cup.
Halep is 6-2 against Stephens in her career, including a tough three-set win in this year's French Open final, and has won their last five meetings.
But Stephens, the reigning U.S. Open champion and third seed, has not dropped a set in four matches this week and looks poised to give the world's top-ranked player a battle when they meet on Sunday on centre court at IGA Stadium.
“We played a good match,” Stephens said of their showdown at Roland Garros. “I played very well for a set and a half.
“Hopefully I'll play very well for two sets. Just try to play as well as I can. I'm playing good tennis. She's playing good tennis. Obviously, to make a final of another tournament is incredible. It's three finals on the year for me. I'm really pleased with that. So, just going to compete really hard and give it my all. Whatever happens, happens.”
Stephens ousted error-prone 2017 champ Elina Svitolina 6-3, 6-3 in a semifinal on Saturday while Halep cruised past Ashleigh Barty 6-4, 6-1. Svitolina won the Rogers Cup last year when it was held in Toronto.
Halep's scheduling dispute with tournament organizers looked to have no effect on her play on the court.
The night before, Halep blasted the Women's Tennis Association for giving her difficult match times, saying she got the worst schedule in the 56-player event and that “this happens almost every tournament.”
But playing on only 15 hours rest, Halep was in control from the outset against 15th-seeded Barty, eliminating the 22-year-old Australian in one hour 11 minutes.
“I was very sore when I woke up,” said Halep. “During the match, it's not easy to run so much but, you know, I just tried to focus on what I have to play and, to make it a little bit easier, which I did in the end, was to finish it early.”
She had nothing to add to her scheduling dispute, which saw her play four matches in three days after a night session was postponed due to rain.
“I think I talked enough about it,” she said. “I hope in the future it's going to be better. I was upset. I am upset. But doesn't change my performance on court.”
Halep has reached the Rogers Cup final for the third time in four years. She won the last time it was held in Montreal in 2016.
The Romanian showed her class as she broke Barty's serve in the opening game with an impressive series of forehands down the lines. She broke again for a 4-1 lead, but the Australian then had her best moments, breaking back after a cross-court shot that drew a roar from the crowd.
But Halep did not lose a point on her serve the rest of the set, and broke twice more to open the second set.
“I think I played smart tennis today,” she said. “I pushed her very back on her backhand, then I could just receive a shorter ball, an easier ball for me to open the court.
“Then I just went all the way on her forehand - short, cross, long, everything. I played some slices.”
Stephens broke serve in the opening game and took a 4-0 lead before Svitolina found the range on her groundstrokes. The Ukrainian even got a service break to close the gap to 5-3, but Stephens broke right back to take the set.
The American baseliner broke again for 3-1 in the second set and closed it out in 1:38.
“I've been playing well, consistent and that's great,” said Stephens. “I played some really tough players. Really pleased with that. Obviously happy with my performance today.”
The losing semifinalists each earned US$126,450.
Barty made up for her singles loss with a semifinal win in doubles, teaming with Demi Schuurs to beat Nicole Melichar and Kveta Peschke 7-5, 6-3.
“I'm disappointed with my singles. In the same breath, I had a commitment to my partner, to Demi, to my team, to myself, to go out there and try my very best in the doubles pretty soon after, which is a good thing,” said Barty.