Simona Halep proved too strong for Coco Gauff in the quarter-final of the Canadian Open, but the former world No 1 had nothing but praise for the teenager before and after their clash.
Two-time Grand Slam winner Halep controlled proceedings from the start, but she nearly allowed her dominance to slip away before regaining her composure to win 6-4, 7-6 (7-2) in one hour and 47 minutes.
Before the match Halep predicted great things for Gauff, saying: “She’s playing non-stop and she’s winning non-stop. That’s why you don’t feel like she’s young anymore.
“She’s super matured since we played when she was 15. She’s a great person, super nice. And I feel like she’s going to be a Grand Slam champion soon.”
The duo had contrasting runs to the last eight as Halep won her three matches in straight sets while Gauff had spent seven hours on court on the back of three-set wins over Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina and sixth seed Aryna Sabalenka.
And it was Romanian who started better as she broke in the opening game, but Gauff was back on level terms in the next game. Halep, though, broke again in game five.
The 15th seed then raced into a 3-0 lead in the second set with back-to-back breaks before Gauff got on the scoreboard by claiming one break back. However, the former world No 1 regained the advantage with a third break to go 4-1 up only for Gauff to reduce it to 4-2.
Just as it looked like Halep would pull away, Gauff drew level only to lose her serve again in the next game to give her opponent the chance to serve out the match. However, a final break saw it go to a tie-breaker, which Halep won comfortably.
“I’m really pleased with the way I stayed there strong mentally,” Halep said after taking her record against Gauff to 4-0.
“And I fought for every point which was really important because she’s doing the same thing. Mentally I’m strong even if I struggled a little bit in the second set.”
The Romanian once again praised Gauff after the match.
“She’s a bit stronger. She hits stronger. And the serve was much stronger today. Backhand is always hard,” she said. “I think she improved a lot since we played last time. It’s always tough to play against her. She’s fighting until the end. She doesn’t give you a point, so you have to stay there and to fight.”
Up next is seventh seed Jessica Pegula after the American defeated Yulia Putintseva 6-3, 6-2 while the other semi-final will see Karolina Pliskova up against Beatriz Haddad Maia.
The 14th seeded Pliskova beat Qinwen Zheng 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 while Brazilian Haddad Maia, who upset top seed Iga Swiatek in the third round, continued her stunning run with a 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 win over 12th seed Belinda Bencic
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