Halep vs. Pegula kicks off Semifinal Saturday at National Bank Open

Semifinal Saturday at the National Bank Open features a two-time champion, some of the brightest young stars in the game and a pair of veterans still looking for their first titles of the season.

In Toronto, the action begins with No. 7 seed Jessica Pegula taking on No. 15 seed Simona Halep for the first time.

Halep is a two-time winner of this tournament, taking the crown in 2016 and 2018, and has 23 WTA titles on her resume.

Pegula, on the other hand, was a semifinalist at this event last season and is looking for just the second singles title of her career.

“Pegula is one of the cleanest ball strikers on the WTA tour, loves to be aggressive,” Sportsnet tennis analyst Jesse Levine said. “It’s going to be hard-hitting ball striking against the epic counter-puncher in Halep.”

The second women’s semifinal features veteran Karolina Pliskova — the No. 14 seed — against rising star Beatriz Haddad Maia, who knocked out world No. 1 Iga Swiatek earlier in the tournament. The two have split their past two meetings with Pliskova winning at the 2018 Australian Open and Haddad Maia winning at Indian Wells in 2021.

“Haddad Maia and Pliskova are both big servers and it’s going to be an interesting matchup,” Levine said. “I don’t expect there to be a lot of long rallies in that matchup.”

In Montreal, the early men’s semifinal features the only two seeded players left: No. 4 Casper Ruud against No. 8 Hubert Hurkacz.

Ruud is looking for his fourth ATP singles title of the season while Hurkacz is going for his second. Ruud also won the only prior matchup between the pair, earlier this year at the French Open.

“If Hurkacz can serve anywhere close to where he served against (Nick) Kyrgios (in the quarterfinals) he can beat anybody in the world,” Levine said. “Casper Ruud, on the other hand … he’s going to look to extend those rallies and keep (Hurkacz) on the move as much as possible and not let him get set in one place.”

The second men’s semifinal features veterans Pablo Carreno Busta and Daniel Evans, two players still looking for their first titles of the year. This will also be the first time they’ve ever faced each other.

“(Carreno Busta) looked extremely impressive in all of his matches, hasn’t dropped a set yet, he’s kinda cruised through this tournament so far,” Levine said. “Dan Evans still had to play some doubles as well, so it’s been a tough week for him and a physical week as well so it will be interesting to see how he comes back from that.”

All four semifinals will be available to watch across the Sportsnet family of channels and to stream on SN NOW.

Women’s Semifinal No. 1: Pegula vs. Halep, 1 p.m. ET (Sportsnet ONE)

Men’s Semifinal No. 1: Ruud vs. Hurkacz, 3 p.m. ET (Sportsnet ONE and Sportsnet 360)

Women’s Semifinal No. 2: Pliskova vs. Haddad Maia, 6 p.m. ET (Sportsnet and Sportsnet ONE)

Men’s Semifinal No. 2: Carreno Busta vs. Evans, 8 p.m. ET (Sportsnet and Sportsnet ONE)

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