WTA Rogers Cup Montreal 2016 Final Preview: Simona Halep v Madison Keys

Simona Halep

The 2016 Rogers Cup final will be contested between the number five seed, Simona Halep and the number ten seed, Madison Keys at 1pm local time in Montreal.

In a wild semi-final, Halep won the first and last six games of the match, overcoming a shaky patch in the second set to defeat Angelique Kerber, 6-0 3-6 6-2. Halep remains unbeaten against Kerber on hard courts and avenged the defeat in the quarter-finals of Wimbledon earlier this month. Halep played a fine first set, aided by an error-strewn opener from Kerber, who was missing big on the forehand side.

Halep was up a set and a break at 6-0 *3-2 and looked in control; Kerber rallied to win two tight games, which seemed to throw Halep out of her funk. The Romanian player was visibly frustrated at missing break points at 3-3 as she angrily swiped her racquet at the ground. Kerber would go onto win six straight games, finding form again on the forehand, as Halep had a mental implosion, overhitting and seemingly losing the early belief she had in her strokes.

Halep was in a spot of bother at *0-2 *0-30 in the third set but going for her shots, with a high element of risk, found her way back into the match. The momentum quickly changed hands as Kerber played a woeful service game to lose her early lead. Halep won the last six games of the match, claiming a virtual bagel as she managed to settle down, finding consistency once again in her groundstrokes. Kerber lost her way once more as she racked up a total of 52 unforced errors! For Halep, she sealed her place in a second straight Rogers Cup final having reached the final in Toronto last year.

Keys blasted her way into the Montreal final, winning 10 of the last 11 games to bring an end to the wonderful run of Kristina Kucova. The American won, 6-2 6-1 in just 50 minutes of play. It was the usual motley bag of winners and errors from Keys in the first set but where she excelled was on serve and return. Keys dropped just five points on her serve and her pace and depth on return frequently took Kucova by surprise as she was unable to react in time for the next shot.

Kucova began to look weary in the second set as Keys powered through the second set for the loss of just one game. The final three games were absolutely superb from Keys as she launched winners from all over the court and finished with a breathtaking forehand cross-court winner from way outside of the tramlines. Keys progresses into her third final of 2016 but surprisingly, her first ever final on hard courts.

Head-to-head record: Halep leads Keys, 2-1 in their head-to-head. Keys’s lone win came in their only previous hard court encounter in Sydney at the start of 2014, 6-1 6-4. Halep won their most recent encounter at Wimbledon, recovering from failing to serve out the first set to win, 6-7(7) 6-4 6-3.

Interesting stat: As pointed out by Micjy in the comments section yesterday, all four of Halep’s wins this week have come against players she had lost her previous encounter to in 2016:

Montreal R2: Halep d. Gavrilova, 6-2 6-3 (Previous meeting – Gavrilova d. Halep in Rome)

Montreal R3: Halep d. Pliskova, 6-3 6-3 (Previous meeting – Pliskova d. Halep in Fed Cup)

Montreal QF: Halep d. Kuznetsova, 3-6 6-1 6-1 (Previous meeting – Kuznetsova d. Halep in Sydney)

Montreal SF: Halep d. Kerber, 6-0 3-6 6-2 (Previous meeting – Kerber d. Halep in Wimbledon)

Final thoughts: This is set to be a fascinating final and i’m totally on the fence! Keys is still hit and miss but she’s developing a real knack for playing the big points well and getting the wins when she is not playing at her best. The serve is a huge weapon and gets her out of trouble on numerous occasions, but i’d be concerned with all the errors up against someone as solid as Halep, who made life very awkward for Keys on the grass courts of Wimbledon just a few weeks ago.

This has been a legit run from Halep; some of her draws have been favourable but she’s had it tough in Montreal and has beaten four quality players to reach the final. One concern for Halep would be whether playing doubles may have an impact on her fitness if this is a lengthy match.

If peak Keys makes an appearance then she takes this in two. However, i’m edging ever so slightly to Halep who looks super confident on hard courts. It’s a very tough one to call and it should pave the way for a compelling final!

Photo in this post by Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

25 thoughts on “WTA Rogers Cup Montreal 2016 Final Preview: Simona Halep v Madison Keys

  1. It seems odd to me that you never fail to mention something negative about Simona, but as I said previously it is just fine. In this case, given this year which was a nightmare draws-wise for her I think your phrase about her super easy draws is just sad.

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    • If you truly think James is being ‘sad’ and unfairly dismissing or diminishing Halep’s achievements with the following comment: ‘This has been a legit run from Halep; some of her draws have been favourable but she’s had it tough in Montreal and has beaten four quality players to reach the final’ then you have a Simona shaped screw loose!

      Given that any win, or string of wins, is only ever as impressive as the player or players beaten, it would be ludicrous and negligent to fail to mention the level of opposition faced when assessing a player’s recent results.

      The fact is that Halep’s run to the Bucharest title was one of the easiest you will ever see at this level, but regardless of that, there was nothing dismissive or critical in the way James alluded to this.

      Your level of sensitivity doesn’t stand you in good stead for a life in the Internet age of inatantaneous insults and outrage.

      I dread to think how you would react if someone said something that was genuinely negative about Halep!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Keep calm! I have the right to an opinion.

        The “level” in Bucharest is the normal one for an event of that type, it is not an GrandSlam, hope u know that.

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      • I’m sad, this blog have something against Halep for sure becouse it is the only tennis website which never publish pictures with Halep before the breast lowering operation

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    • Trying to put a negative spin on what I wrote which was actually a positive thing about Halep (!) and trying to showcase how well she’s done in Montreal is as you put it, just sad. I was referring to the general comments that I have read about Halep’s title runs, particularly Madrid, where she did have a favourable draw for a Premier Mandatory, not having to play a top 10 player. Personally, I have always been of the viewpoint that all you can do is beat who is in front you and Halep was fully deserving of that Madrid title so the comment was to essentially make the point that NO-ONE can question this run in Montreal. Perhaps I should have made this clearer but i’ve noticed a trend where anything I write about Halep that could be deemed as being even a slightly negative point is flagged up.

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      • It is not a trend, it is the genuine fact that you are almost always writing something negative about her even in the positives. As I have previously commented here I think you are doing a great job and truly read your blog every time with pleasure, but it is impossible not to notice this matter. You did not write or I did not see it about other super easy draws.

        Maybe it is a matter of being over-sensitive after many occasions in which I have noticed your little halepophobia (to put this way). It is your blog, your opinin and you are free as a bird. I am sorry if it ofended you.

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      • sorry, i meant to reference Madrid alongside Bucharest – the Bucharest level of opposition was nothing especially out of the ordinary for that competition – a level that is easy going for someone of Halep’s standard. With regard to Madrid, Simona’s run to one side, with no Serena and no Sharapova, the draw was arguably the weakest its been for quite some time. That doesn’t detract from Simona herself, who did as well as she could have done at the tournament, but it does mean it was an easier ride than many runs to a premier title are.

        I would also suggest that even if James had an agenda against Halep for some unknown reason, he is well aware that a disproportionate number of his readership appear to be hardcore Halep fans…..being the intelligent fellow that he is I don’t think he would be going out of his way to belittle her and offend them!!!

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  2. Halep in 3. I was leaning to keys in 3 but Halep seems to be on a mission for revenge. Best served cold of course. I think it will goto 3.

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  3. Ps I’m picking Keys. She had Simona at Wimbledon til one of her legs seemed to desert her.

    Keys is certainly capable of being ground down to an error strewn mess for periods of time by Halep, but she’s serving well and I think the Halep serve will take a pounding if the deep, hard Keys return is firing.

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    • Could be… I don’t think any of them “had” the other at wimbledon though, it was a bit of a strange match. You could argue that Simona could have won the first set but failed to serve it out, then Keys leg failed her also due to Simona putting her on the run. Madison has the power to blow Simona off the court. Simona could be, in her words, “dead” after 4 matches of 3 sets in 2 days… I think it depends a lot on what type of day each of them will have. Hope it will be a good one!

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  4. Thanks for mentioning my name in your post 🙂
    And I really want simona to win this title and take this momentum further.. But keys is a good player, let’s see how she progresses in this match fitness wise as well as mentally ( cause I think this would be the first biggest title for her,if she sets herself in winning position)

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  5. I tend to jinx Keys when I make her a pick for a final, so will leave it there.

    But, I have Keys as a top 10 player by year’s end. I hope she lives up to that potential. Her game is great(sans the mental letdowns) and it will be a huge boost for her going forward. I think it might actually help her to better tune her game given that she will be challenged more regularly by all manner of girls.

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  6. I am going with Keys, she is in the better form of the two finalist, and she seems to have gain some mental strength as well.

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  7. And please James don’t think that you ever got biased with any player ever, especially simona. After reading number of different people’s blogs,I have found you the most sensible and careful writer about players. You always encourage every player ( no matter how bad they play) and there is no chance that you can write something negative or have some issues with ANY player. I love your views and you never wrote something inappropriate for ANY player.so stick with your style of writing.
    BY a crazy halep’s fan 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • When Halep is on then its difficult for an opponent to be ON. Even Serena says this. It’s possible to outhit her but you need to play with margin and keep the errors to a bare minimum.

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  8. I saw the whole match, to be honest I was slightly leaning towards Keys but am not surprised with this result.
    At Wimbledon I had no doubts that Halep will trouble Keys but here I thought that may be Keys is getting there but no!

    As James said and I very much agree Keys is still a hit and a miss case, in my opinion Keys still needs a lot of work if she wants to be a solid top 10 player (someone who stays there). I personally believe that she still has a bit of mental block against the top players. She desperately needs to learn to defend besides hitting everything hard, it’s not going to work against good defenders especially someone like Halep.

    One thing I have noticed is that whenever Keys loses people comment that she did not play well and made a lot of unforced errors, there is hardly ever any credit given to the opponent that may be the opponent was hitting balls which are hard to control and pounce on and had a good game plan!

    Halep was on fire this tournament, her fighting spirit is incredible, and most importantly she thinks before hitting the ball unlike her opponent who still isnt quite there yet!

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    • Yep good point about more defensive minded players vs. attacking getting little credit. It must be frustrating to play someone like Keys because of the lack of rhythm. While Keys made a lot of errors, some of that is down to Halep forcing the mistakes and she played a decent second set despite the general focus perhaps being on Keys not playing her best.

      I’ve been really impressed with Keys this year and she’s become so much more consistent in terms of going deep in tournaments back-to-back. The final showed she is still a work in progress but I have much more faith in her becoming a solid top 10 player than at the start of the year.

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