Brazil’s Beatriz Haddad Maia continues a charmed week at the National Bank Open as Belinda Bencic loses her cool, then the match


How not to get the crowd on your side.

Belinda Bencic lost the match and lost her mind on Friday night at the National Bank Open.

The 28-year-old Swiss, who had been so gracious in giving Serena Williams time and space to say goodbye to the Toronto audience, was clearly upset with the fans at Sobeys Stadium in her semi-final encounter with Brazil’s Beatriz Haddad Maia. And, in truth, there was reason for her displeasure. Some in the crowd had cheered her double fault in the final game of the first set, which Bencic would lose on a break.

“Show some respect!” she had screamed.

Which, naturally, simply led to more boos from the onlookers and a widening abyss of distaste for Bencic.

In the third game of the third frame, Bencic was up 2-0 but threw the “SHUT UP” as Haddad Maia held the love but complained further to the chair umpire, who had repeatedly pleaded with the crowd to turn down the noise. . during the points, but he couldn’t do anything to get the fans to express their views through applause.

“It’s giving me a headache,” Bencic complained.

Well, it was the Brazilian who really racked the Swiss woman’s brain. Twenty-four hours after defeating World No. 1 Iga Swiatek, Haddad Maia defeated 12th-ranked Bencic 2-6, 6-3, 6-3, booking a spot in Saturday’s semifinal against the winner of the night match. between Czech Karolina Pliskova and Chinese teenager Quinwen Zheng.

As the Brazilian flags waved, Haddad Maia brought the curtain down on Bencic, the 2015 champion at this event, with an ace match point, only his second ace of the night. That’s style.

Beatriz Haddad Maia became the first Brazilian to reach a WTA 1000 semifinal with her victory over Switzerland's Belinda Bencic at the National Bank Open in Toronto.

“Well, first of all I would like to thank everyone who came to watch tonight,” the Brazilian said in her on-court interview. “Today I felt a lot of energy, especially on this side (gesturing towards the Brazilian rows in the crowd).

“From the first round. I’m having the best moments in every game. The first round was very tough for me mentally and I had to fight a lot. Every game is very difficult to feel good one hundred percent. Today, when I came to the court, I started to miss myself a little bit, but I was trying to talk to myself: ‘Keep fighting, keep thinking positive, because the game changes very quickly.’ ”

The southpaw had a lovely week, though not as endearing an element when she knocked out Canada’s Leylah Fernandez in the second round. She is in her first career WTA 1000 semi-final, though she came to Toronto with back-to-back grass-court titles in lower-level events.

It is impossible to say, of course, to what extent Bencic set himself up for failure with his fragile temperament. But as far as a crowd can make or break a player, she played with fire and got burned, never drawing fans into her corner.

Haddad Maia lapped up the love, and not just from the sizable Brazilian component in the stands, although she was surely delighted with their support.

“We have Brazilians everywhere,” he told reporters. “I always feel the energy. Someone is always yelling, ‘Come on Beatriz!’

“Today I saw many Brazilian flags. And I am very proud of us. Because, especially being a woman, being from South America where we don’t have many top players playing Grand Slams and appearing on television… so I’m very happy, proud and very grateful that they come to see me. .”

She was the first Brazilian to reach the quarterfinals of a WTA 1000 event and is now the first to reach the semifinals. She also, she the first Brazilian to topple a current number 1 in the world, since she dispatched Swiatek.

A tournament that began with 19 of the top 20 players on the planet and eight former No. 1s, was left with just one top seed surviving the week: American Jessica Pegula, ranked and seeded seventh. The top six women went to the round of 16.

Pegula defeated Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan 6-3, 6-3. But she emphasized that just because she was the highest seed still standing didn’t mean she had a clear path to her second career tour title. For starters, she will have to count on former No. 1, two-time Grand Slam champion Simona Halep, also a two-time winner at this stop on the Canadian tour.

“I feel like anybody can do well these days,” said Pegula, a Buffalo native whose parents are the top owners of the Buffalo Bills. So she knows a thing or two about agonizing loss. “And of course I play Halep, who is a great champion. So no, it’s never easy. It’s nice to see I’m the highest seed, but I don’t really think it means anything at the moment.”

Strangely, she and Halep had never been face-to-face before.

Pegula also scored a victory in the doubles competition on Friday with her partner Coco Gauff, after the latter was eliminated in singles by Halep.

With Felix Auger-Aliassime eliminated in the men’s final of the Montreal tournament, that leaves only doubles specialist Gabriela Dabrowski as the only Canadian still alive this week. She and her partner Giuliana Olmos of Mexico defeated Andreja Klepac of Slovenia and Alexa Guarachi of Chile 2-6, 6-2, 10-0 to advance to the semifinal. On Saturday they will face the American Nicole Melichar-Martinez and the Australian Ellen Perez.

Rosie DiManno is a Toronto-based columnist who covers sports and current affairs for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @rdimanno


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