MONTREAL, QC – AUGUST 12: Simona Halep of Romania holds the trophy during the post game ceremony after defeating Sloane Stephens 7-6, 3-6, 6-4 in the final on day seven of the Rogers Cup at IGA Stadium on August 12, 2018.
Nearly 12 months ago, Simona Halep was on Centre Court at IGA Stadium, clutching another trophy in Montreal as confetti fell down from the sky.
The Romanian was in the middle of celebrating her second career title in Canada. She was just two years removed from winning her first Rogers Cup presented by National Bank in what could be the beginning of a Montreal tradition for the 27 year old, if she keeps this up.
However, these types of performances at Rogers Cup might become a more ‘Canadian’ tradition – especially if she does what many will predict her to do in Toronto this year.
She comes into this year’s event as one of the undisputed favorites to win. But why is she poised to defend her Canadian title? Well, let me tell you.
1) Flawless victory at Wimbledon
It was a performance for the ages.
Despite facing off against one of the greatest tennis players of all-time in the final at the All England Club. Against an opponent who had beaten her in nine of 10 previous meetings. Halep didn’t just come up big. She delivered on arguably the game’s biggest stage.
In just 56 minutes, the Romanian took down Serena Williams in straight sets 6-2, 6-2 to take home her second career Grand Slam title. Over the course of the match, the 27 year old committed just three unforced errors – which is the fewest ever recorded in a ladies’ singles final at Wimbledon.
Having already been the first Romanian woman to reach a singles’ final at the All England Club, Halep became the first in her country to lay claim to the Venus Rosewater dish. On her path to securing her second career Slam, the World No. 4 dropped just one set.
Don’t be surprised if she carries that type of play into her title defence at this year’s Rogers Cup in Toronto.
2) Championship history in Canada
An argument could be made that Simona Halep has been the most successful player at Rogers Cup over the last four years.
Dating back to 2015, the two-time Rogers Cup champion owns a 17-2 match record in Canada. She’s reached the semi-finals at this event four straight times. Her only two defeats came in the 2015 final against Belinda Bencic and in the 2017 semis against Elina Svitolina, who went on the win the title in Toronto.
As mentioned already, in both 2016 and 2018, Halep dropped just two sets en route to winning the trophy in Montreal. Both of these Canadian triumphs were capped off by victories against a couple of Americans in Madison Keys (2016) and Sloane Stephens (2018).
After winning her latest Rogers Cup title only a year ago, Halep expressed how much she enjoys playing in the Great White North. “I love to play in Canada,” she said. “It’s maybe the best place because so many people are so nice with me.”
I get the feeling those good vibes in Canada will continue for Halep once again in 2019.
3) Hard-court success
Including her two Rogers Cup titles, Halep has won a total of 10 trophies over her career on the hard courts of the WTA Tour. That represents more than half of the 19 titles she’s won over her professional career.
Sure, some might point out that both her Grand Slam titles have been earned on clay and grass. But Halep has often shown she can rise to the occasion on hard courts. Specifically, five of her seven career WTA Premier Mandatory & Premier 5 victories have taken place on this surface.
She’s also reached 18 career finals on hard courts. That’s more than the 16 championship matches she’s played on clay, and significantly more than the two career finals on grass.
Halep has a championship pedigree on this surface, which only makes her more of a favourite coming into an event she’s twice won.