Halep, Svitolina Survive Match-Packed Day in Montreal at Rogers Cup
By Charles David Mathieu-Poulin and Maxime Labrecque
(August 9, 2018) MONTREAL – With a few matches being pushed back on Wednesday due to rain, the Thursday schedule at the Coupe Rogers in Montreal was jam-packed with promising matches and intriguing match-ups. First seed and 2016 Montreal champion Simona Halep, as well as defending champion Elina Svitolina, both managed to book their spot in the quarterfinals, while Caroline Wozniacki and Petra Kvitova were upset.
It certainly wasn’t an easy day for world No. 1 Simon Halep. Trailing 3-4 to Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova on Wednesday night when their encounter was suspended by rain, the crowd favorite had to return on court on Thursday afternoon to resume the match against a very inspired opponent. Despite having a 0-7 record against the Romanian, Pavlyuchenkova was dictating play and moving Halep around in an exciting contrast of styles. The first set got to distance, with the Romanian winning 7-6(9), saving one set point along the way.
With Halep up 4-3 in the second, Pavlyuchenkova once again showed the type of game that saw her reach the quarterfinals in all four Grand Slams over her career. From both sides, she overpowered the first seed, reeled three straight games to force a third set and then took a commanding 4-2 lead. But the world number one is known for her fighting spirit and she weathered the storm to comeback and squeak through a grueling 7-6(6) 4-6 7-5 win in over three hours.
But that wasn’t it for Halep, who then had to face seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams in the last match of the night for a spot in the quarterfinals. As both players were playing their second match of the day, the level of play was impacted. The American, who was wearing a brace on her right knee, seemed to struggle with her movement, while Halep had mentioned she was ‘in a lot of pain’ due to blisters during an on-court coaching session earlier in her second round match. Nevertheless, the world No. 1 seemed fitter and more in control, as she defeated Williams 6-2 6-2, to get her second straight win against the 13th seed. “I think it was an advantage for me to play tonight without injury, so I was able to run and to stay very well on court”, the French Open champion conceded.
In a repeat of last year’s quarterfinals, Halep’s opponent will be 6th seed Caroline Garcia, who beat Maria Sharapova 6-3, 6-2 in an anticipated clash on center court. The Frenchwoman played a tactically flawless match, taking the lead early in rallies and preventing the tall Russian from playing her branded style of first-strike tennis. It was the second win for Garcia against Sharapova in 2018, after losing the first four meetings between the two.
The day didn’t go as well for second seed Caroline Wozniacki, who was playing her first match of the tournament against up-and-comer Aryna Sabalenka. The Dane, who had withdrawn from the Washington tournament last week, was looking to defend her final from 2017. In another thrilling three-set match on center court, the Belarussian saved three match points down 3-5 in the third set to win 2-7 6-2 7-6(4), hitting an astounding 64 winners to get the biggest win of her young career. Sabalenka had to come back on court less just over an hour later but couldn’t pull off her second upset of the day, wasting a match point in a 2-6 7-6(1) 6-0 loss to in-form Elise Mertens.
In the quarterfinals, Mertens will face-off with defending champion and 5th seed Elina Svitolina, who defeated dangerous Johanna Konta in two sets. The other quarterfinals will be between Australian Ashley Barty and Kiki Bertens, who upset 8th seed Petra Kvitova, and a repeat of the 2017 US Open quarterfinals between 3rd seed Sloane Stephens and Anastasija Sevastova.