In a clash that may look like a mismatch on paper, but could well prove to be anything but, world #1 Simona Halep takes on Australia’s Ashleigh Barty for a place in the final in Montreal. Halep, a champion in Canada two years ago, endured a difficult Wimbledon campaign after winning her first Grand Slam at the French Open, but looks to be playing with confidence. But Barty has been a giant-killer in the past and will hope to score another big win. Who will come out on top?
This will be the first meeting between Barty and Halep. In terms of experience, however, it is unsurprisingly the world’s best who has the advantage. Halep has a career record of 444-193 and has claimed 17 titles, including one Grand Slam and 6 Premier tournaments. Barty, four years her junior, has taken a more modest, but still respectable, haul of two titles so far, including earlier this year in Nottingham.
Path to the semifinals
Halep, after a first-round bye, began her tournament against Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. It proved to be an almighty battle, but one from which she eventually emerged a 7-6 4-6 7-5 winner. With that match having been delayed due to rain, Halep had to return later that same day to face Venus Williams but delivered a clinical performance to win 6-2 6-2. She then overcame world #6 Caroline Garcia 7-5 6-1 to reach the last four.
Barty, the 15th seed, began her tournament with a hard-fought 6-3 1-6 7-5 win over Romania’s Irina-Camelia Begu in the first round. She then bested Alison Van Uytvanck, who last month reached the fourth round at Wimbledon, 7-6 6-2. That was followed by an impressive 7-6 6-4 victory over Alize Cornet, who had upset Angelique Kerber in the second round. Barty then crushed Kiki Bertens 6-3 6-1 to reach the quarterfinals.
How do they match up?
Halep is arguably the finest counterpuncher currently playing on the WTA Tour. Her defensive skills are excellent and her ability to use the ball at the end of her range at times produces truly jaw dropping shots. But she also has the confidence to step in and dictate when the situation requires it. When on the attack, her forehand is her best weapon, and it is superbly accurate. Halep is also able to take her backhand down the line to open up the court and Barty will need to be wary of that.
The Australian is more aggressive in mindset. But she relies less on outright power, though she can inject a fair amount of pace into her forehand, than on her court craft. Barty has terrific feel and excels at hitting both drop shots and lobs. Indeed, she often draws opponents to the net with the former before winning the point with the latter. When at the net herself, she is extremely comfortable and is a doubles player of some repute, having reached four Grand Slam finals in the discipline.
Barty is always dangerous on a fast court and has reached a Premier final before, finishing as runner-up to Caroline Garcia in Wuhan in 2017. But Halep has been playing such excellent tennis this year, with her performance at Wimbledon the only really notable disappointment for her, that it is hard not to back her. Her foot speed and the quality of her groundstrokes should leave Barty with no answers. Expect Halep to return to the final in Montreal with a straight sets win.