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!