Simona Halep was victorious in one of the top ten thrilling matches to be seen this season. The third round battle against Angelique Kerber was never expected to be an easy one but after three full sets, the 23 year old Romanian got a well deserved victory winning 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 at the Rogers Cup Thursday to advance to the quarterfinals.
It’s the most successful WTA tournament winner against one of the most popular tennis players in the world going heat to head in the third round. They have met just twice in the past dating back to last season when Halep defeated Kerber in straight sets allowing five game winners.
While Halep has been in mostly large tournament, Kerber dug in to smaller WTA premier events winning her fourth event at Stanford. The German’s fight in the Canadian Masters has been smooth so far winning against Misaki Doi and Monica Puig allowing the two six games combined while she held them in straight sets each. In what was expected to be a thrilling match, the support for the Romanian will be pitted against the German who had been nothing short of dominant in her current status.
Halep opened the set with a solid serve to Kerber capturing the first game. The second was a clear indication of high quality tennis as the German gave Halep everything on court to try and break even on serve. The battle ensued through five breaks with both girls getting their chance to take the game. In the end it was Halep who earned the point on an unforced error from Kerber ending the five break marathon.
Kerber smoothed out the pace to break Halep in Game Three winning the triple break outright. Halep took the next game on the break making such a hard match look so easy out there. The German worked her way back finding herself at 2-3 but the Romanian was showing her power on both sides of the ball winning a third break of serve.
Halep regained control on her serve to take a 5-2 lead over Kerber in the set looking to maintain her control on the returning end. Despite the unforced errors committed, Kerber rallied back to regain hold on serve to stay alive down two games. She would never let her regain the margin as she swept Game Nine to end the set in 36 minutes. Halep served 69 percent on the serve with two aces and seven winners. It was clear the different maker was on Kerber’s 18 unforced errors that caused her to fall off the wagon Halep was driving.
She began the second set with her in control giving Halep an early rush stealing two wins in the process. The Romanian and her huge support helped her cut the German’s lead in half competing hard for the tie in game four. It would fall out of reach as Kerber continued to gain energy and momentum that spelled out a 3-1 lead.
She continued to hold off Halep after six still holding a two game margin. The path was still very difficult as the German had to earn the wins on deuce with Halep giving no clear path to victory. Game seven was the most thrilling game of the match as the two power players switched control from one end to the other on deuce. Halep was on point to win the game but Kerber continued to find a way to extending the bout. On the seventh break in what would be the longest game of the match, Kerber was able to hold the advantage and take the 5-2 lead playing for the tying set.
Halep went back to serve putting her best foot forward to run the court in Game Eight. After the show of domination, the Romanian did it again. It was enough to have her one game from leveling at five games all to force the set on. With Halep back on serve, the Romanian knew what she had to accomplish and accomplish she did. Halep made the full comeback down three games to force Kerber into a pressure filled ending for the set.
Kerber served in Game 11 where she remained calm on court while laying out a set of shots that would catch her opponent off the mark. The German fired the ball away and behind Halep giving her another chance at closing out the set. On the set point, Halep handed Kerber the victory on a ball that was long to send the match into a deciding third set.
After taking a well deserved break, the two titans of tennis returned to court to get the final set underway with Kerber on the ball. She allowed Halep to attack well on the serve to open the set briefly ahead. Kerber leveled up on the break but watched Halep climb back into it as she returned to serve in Game Four. The Romanian added another game expecting to hold her lead at the halfway point of the set. That was not to be the case as Kerber responded with a win in Game Six tying the set a three all.
The two continued to get into a stalemate on deuce where both fought through the break to change the tide of control. After three breaks, it was Halep once again taking the first step ahead of Kerber who would more than likely tie things up. It was exactly the situation as Kerber tied the set with her back on serve. Halep showed tremendous strength despite having played more than two hours of tennis. Her strategy to add backspin on the return caught Kerber off guard sending the ball outside the court to fall back into danger.
Halep was now in her best spot to put Kerber away once and for all leading 5-4 in the deciding set. The Romanian served for the match where she opened up a 40-0 lead in the game. On the triple match point, Halep landed a perfect ace to end the 2 hour and 22 minutes battle on the hard court.
“I tried everything to win and I did everything I could,” Halep said to Sportsnet after the match. “She (Kerber) played amazing, she just came from Stanford and won the tournament so she had a lot of confidence.”
Confidence was on both sides of the court despite the stats for both players on points from the serve. Halep landed 67 percent of her balls winning points half the time. “My serve didn’t work well today but I had a good return,” said Halep. “And when I started to open the court more it was better for me to be aggressive.” It showed in the late stages as she landed 19 of 34 against the serve of Kerber to be in this position.
While she relaxes for the remainder of the day, the Romanian will prepare to face the winner between Agnieszka Radwanska and Alize Cornet on Friday.