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Simona Halep wins tournament title in Toronto for third time, outlasting Beatriz Haddad Maia

Simona Halep collected the National Bank Open on Sunday for the third time, defeating Beatriz Haddad Maia 6-3, 2-6, 6-3.

Halep, from Romania, also collected the title in 2016 and 2018 when it was called the Rogers Cup. It’s the 24th title of Halep’s career and first since switching to Patrick Mouratoglou as her coach.

The 26-year-old Haddad Maia, who is from Brazil, has never won a tennis tournament at this level before but has rocketed up the WTA Tour’s standings this year.

She upset three seeded players at the National Bank Open: 13th-seeded Leylah Fernandez of Laval, Que., world No. 1 Iga Swiatek and 14th-seeded Karolina Pliskova in succession.

A year ago, Haddad Maia was ranked 183rd in the world, but entered this week’s tournament No. 24 and will crack the top 20 next week.

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Halep fell behind Haddad Maia 3-0 in the opening set and started yelling at herself.

Some Brazilian fans — many of them in yellow national soccer kit — started chanting “Bee-ah! Bee-ah!” to cheer on Haddad-Maia but they were soon drowned out by Romanian fans’ calls of “See-moh-nah! See-moh-nah!”

The chanting seemed to rouse Halep. A deep forehand return on set point that was just out of the reach of Haddad Maia’s extended racket sealed six consecutive games for Halep as she came back to take the first set.

Haddad Maia seemed to shake off that stunning comeback to start the second set, quickly winning the first two games and fending off Halep on two more for a 4-0 lead.

Although Halep won a game back to slow Haddad Maia slightly and make it 4-1, the younger Brazilian immediately reclaimed that momentum to make it 5-1.

Halep claimed another game before Haddad Maia could serve for the second set. Haddad Maia jumped out to a 40-15 advantage and then her serve handcuffed Halep to attain the set and force a decisive third and final set.

For the first time in the match, Halep opened a set with a game winner and took a 2-0 lead when Haddad Maia’s return of her forehand went long. Later, an overhand smash at the net by Halep completed her own unblemished game for a 5-2 lead.

Haddad Maia stayed in the match, winning another game. She made it 5-3 when her high backhanded volley dropped in for a point. Holding a 40-15 advantage in the ninth game of the third set, Halep clinched her first title in Toronto when Haddad Maia put her return into the net.

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Serena Williams advances to second round in Toronto in straight sets

Serena Williams hadn’t won in so long, she said she couldn’t even remember the feeling.

She picked up her first triumph since the 2021 French Open on Monday, beating Nuria Parrizas-Diaz 6-3, 6-4 at the women’s National Bank Open.

“I’m just happy to get a win. It’s been a very long time, I forgot what that felt like,” Williams said.

It’s just the second tournament of the season for the 40-year-old Williams, who returned to competition at Wimbledon just over a month ago. The 23-time Grand Slam champion fell in the first round to Harmony Tan in three sets at the All England Club.

Before then, she last competed at the 2021 Wimbledon tournament, where she retired in the middle of her first match due to a torn hamstring suffered after slipping on the grass surface.

Williams, who will turn 41 at the end of September, will next face either 12th-ranked Belinda Bencic or Tereza Martincova.

Williams has acquired this tournament three times and reached the final in her last appearance at the hardcourt event in 2019, losing to Bianca Andreescu when she was forced to stop because of injury.

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But Williams has played little since and knows she needs time on the court.

“I feel good, I felt like I competed well today. I think that’s what I needed to do, is just compete,” she said. “Mentally, I’m getting there. I’m not where I normally am (or) where I want to be. Any match I play, whether I win or lose, helps me.

“I haven’t played a lot in the last year, (even) two years. I think that helps me physically. I feel much better in practice, it’s just getting that to the court. Literally, I’m the kind of person (where) it takes one or two things and then it clicks.”

Williams started out strong, taking the first two games with relative ease.

Parrizas-Diaz tied it 2-2, but despite Williams’ struggles at certain points, the 31-year-old Spaniard couldn’t find enough of a consistent flow to get ahead. Williams found her rhythm, mixing solid touch with her signature power and putting shot after shot out of Parrizas-Diaz’s reach.

Williams’ effort had the fans on their feet roaring and some even bowing.

Williams won the final three games to take the first set, then surged ahead in the second after the 57th-ranked Parrizas-Diaz took a 4-3 lead. She endured a nine-deuce game to hold serve and even the set, then broke in the next game before serving out the victory.

While Williams says the end of her remarkable career is in sight, she’s enjoying her time and staying in the moment.

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Jansen, Guerrero homer, Blue Jays beat Cardinals 8-1

Danny Jansen hit a three-run homer and a solo shot, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. also went deep and the Toronto Blue Jays defeated the St. Louis Cardinals 8-1 on Tuesday night.

“It was my first time to be in the stadium here and obviously it’s a really cool stadium,” Jansen said. “It was fun. It was nice for us to get some breathing room. Guys were putting great swings on the ball and getting hits. Hitting is contagious. It always is.”

Kevin Gausman (4-3) threw six scoreless innings with eight strikeouts and no walks. He allowed four hits and beat the Cardinals for the first time in eight appearances.

“For us to get our mojo back and have that high energy and everybody talking in the dugout, that was nice to see,” Gausman said. “Any one of these guys can hit a home run at any given moment.”

Toronto split the two-game series and ended the Cardinals’ winning streak at four.

“It was a great day,” Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo stated. “We needed this day. Gausman gave us what we needed. We rest the bullpen. It was great to see the offense come alive.”

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Jordan Hicks (1-4) pitched three-plus innings in his first career start versus the Blue Jays. He permitted four runs on four hits with five walks.

“The whole game I felt like I didn’t have command of my fastball,” Hicks said. “The fastball is the game changer for me. I can’t be out there throwing slider or curveball every pitch. It’s frustrating.”

Alejandro Kirk led off the fourth with a single and Matt Chapman walked before Jansen hit a 3-2 slider from Hicks off the foul pole in left to make it 4-0.

“I was just hoping it wouldn’t hook too much,” Jansen said. “That was really cool. I’ve talked about getting out of my own way. I’m good at pulling the ball.”

Jansen led off the seventh with a blast estimated at 427 feet for his fifth homer this season and third multi-homer game of his career.

The Blue Jays added three runs in the sixth. 

George Springer hit a sinking line drive to right field for a triple to score Raimel Tapia and chase reliever Nick Wittgren. A sacrifice fly drove home Springer.

Guerrero then greeted reliever Drew VerHagen with a homer to left. He had singled in the first inning to snap an 0-for-14 drought.

“Obviously if I tell you that I didn’t enjoy it, I would be lying to you guys,” Guerrero said through a translator. “When you hit a homer, you’ve got to enjoy it.”

It was Guerrero’s second homer of the month and his first in 15 games.

“Before he did that, he was talking in the dugout that for the first time he feels locked in,” Montoyo. “Like he can see the ball right. That bomb he hit, that was good to hear.”

Rookie Brendan Donovan had an RBI single in the seventh for the Cardinals.

“Game got away from us,” St. Louis manager Oliver Marmol said. “Gave up some extra outs. Not our best baseball.”

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Torres hit in 9th, Yanks win 10th in row, beat Blue Jays 3-2

Gleyber Torres homered early, then hit a go-ahead single in the ninth inning as the New York Yankees earned their 10th consecutive game, beating the Toronto Blue Jays 3-2 Monday night.

Giancarlo Stanton singled off Yimi Garcia (0-2) to start the New York ninth, ending a streak of four perfect innings by Blue Jays relievers. Pinch-runner Tim Locastro stole second, but Josh Donaldson grounded out and Aaron Hicks struck out before Torres lined a single to center field.

Clay Holmes (2-0) pitched 1 1/3 innings for the win and Chad Green worked a perfect ninth for his first save in three chances.

Torres opened the scoring with a two-out, two-run drive off Ross Stripling in the fourth, his third homer of the season.

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The Yankees won for the 12th time in 13 games and improved their MLB-leading record to 17-8.

The Blue Jays dropped to 9-3 in one-run games.

New York put runners at the corners with one out in the third but Stripling struck out Aaron Judge and got Anthony Rizzo to fly out. Judge had homered in his past three games, and had hit five home runs in his previous five games.

Yankees left-hander Jordan Montgomery faced the minimum through three innings but the Blue Jays tied it in the bottom of the fourth. George Springer singled and scored on Bo Bichette’s RBI double. Bichette advanced on a fly ball and later scored on Matt Chapman’s two-out single.

Chapman struck out against Jonathan Loáisiga to end the sixth, stranding Bichette at third.

Toronto’s Alejandro Kirk drew a leadoff walk against reliever Miguel Castro in the seventh and Tyler Heineman hit a two-out double, but Holmes came on and got Springer to ground out.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. hit back-to-back singles off Holmes in the eighth but Chapman grounded into an inning-ending double play, Toronto’s third of the game.

Montgomery gave up two runs and six hits in five-plus innings. He walked none and struck out five. Stripling permitted two runs and five hits in four innings. He walked none and struck out three.

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Siakam scores 25 points as Raptors beat Bulls 127-120 in OT

Pascal Siakam had 25 points and 13 rebounds, Chris Boucher added 16 points and 10 rebounds, and the Toronto Raptors defeated the Chicago Bulls 127-120 in overtime on Thursday night.

Scottie Barnes scored 21 points, including the go-ahead basket with 1:44 left in OT, and Gary Trent Jr. added a decisive 3-pointer with 16 seconds left.

Trent scored 16 points, ending his career-best streak of 30-point games at five.

Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby each scored 21 as Toronto won its fourth straight overall and snapped a five-game losing streak versus the Bulls.

Nikola Vucevic matched his season high with 30 points and had 18 rebounds for the Bulls, his ninth double-double in 10 games. DeMar DeRozan scored 28 points.

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The Chargers have struggled on special teams for several years.

Ficken will be tasked with trying to improve an inconsistent Chargers special teams unit. Los Angeles improved as the season went along because of the midseason signings of returner Andre Roberts and kicker Dustin Hopkins. Roberts led the league with a 32.8-yard kick return average while Hopkins was 18 of 20 on field goals after joining the Chargers.

A short time later, then-head coach Anthony Lynn took over special teams to finish the season.

In 2021, the Chargers added returner Andre Roberts and kicker Dustin Hopkins — both veterans — in October. Their arrivals boosted a unit that steadily improved but still concluded near the bottom in the NFL’s overall rankings.

Last month, coach Brandon Staley decided to make a change, dismissing Swinton and special teams assistant Mayur Chaudhari.

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Siakam and Trent Jr. lead Raptors past Hornets, 125-113

Pascal Siakam had 24 points and matched his career high with 12 assists, Gary Trent Jr. scored a season-best 32 and the Toronto Raptors never trailed in a 125-113 triumph over the Charlotte Hornets on Tuesday night.

OG Anunoby added 24 points, Chris Boucher had 12, Malachi Flynn 11 and Dalano Banton 10 as the short-handed Raptors overcame the absences of starters Fred VanVleet and Scottie Barnes. VanVleet sat out with a sore right knee, and Barnes was scratched less than an hour before tipoff because of a sore right wrist.

With VanVleet unavailable, Siakam started at point guard. He wasted no time showing off his playmaking skills, registering four assists in each of the first two quarters.

“I’m just trying to be an overall player,” Siakam said. “I feel like I can do that most nights, just being the best player out there and making my teammates better. That’s the role I’m trying to take on.”

Siakam was replaced with 3:07 to play and Toronto leading by 17. He concluded with nine rebounds, narrowly missing his second career triple-double. Siakam lost a triple-double in a Jan. 15 win at Milwaukee when the NBA took two rebounds away from him following the game.

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“As long as we win, man, I’m cool,” Siakam said. “To be out there getting wins is more important to me.”

LaMelo Ball scored 25 points and Miles Bridges had 22 for the Hornets, who had won three consecutive road games but also were missing key players. Gordon Hayward (sore right foot) and Jalen McDaniels (sprained left ankle) both sat out for the second consecutive game.

James Bouknight scored 18 points, and Mason Plumlee and Terry Rozier each had 12.

“Not enough defense in this game, period,” Hornets coach James Borrego said. “First quarter, got off to a poor start defensively, and it carried through.”

Toronto came in trailing Charlotte by 2½ games in the Eastern Conference.

The Raptors (23-22) have played three fewer games than the Hornets (26-22).

“It’s important,” Siakam said of maintaining position in the tightly packed standings. “We’re all right there. You go into a little slump and it could be the end of the season for you.”

After scoring a season-low 34 points in the first half of Sunday’s loss to Portland, Toronto shot 16 for 26 in the opening period, including 7 for 11 from 3-point range, to lead 39-27 after one.

“It just seemed like every time we were going to shoot the other night, it wasn’t going to go in,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said of Sunday, when his team shot 5 for 26 in the first quarter. “Everybody that stepped into one tonight, you thought they were going to make them.”

Bridges and Bouknight each scored 13 points in the second, but Toronto kept up its hot shooting, connecting on 13 of 21 attempts. The Raptors led 76-61 at halftime, their highest-scoring half of the season.

“They had great rhythm, they stepped into all their shots, and they got second opportunities,” Plumlee stated. Charlotte opened the third quarter with a 14-2 run, cutting the deficit to 78-75 with 7:29 left, but Trent scored 14 points as the Raptors pulled away again, taking a 105-86 lead into the fourth.

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Gardner’s 2-run single in 9th lifts Yankees over Orioles 4-3

Brett Gardner blooped a two-run single in the ninth inning that was set up by a double steal, and the New York Yankees defeated the Baltimore Orioles 4-3 Wednesday night for their third consecutive win.

The Yankees kept pace with Toronto and Boston atop the AL wild-card standings as all three teams won.Austin Hays homered twice for the Orioles, including a two-out, two-run drive in the eighth off Chad Green for a 3-2 lead.

The homer came soon after second baseman Gleyber Torres knocked down a hard liner and instead of throwing to second to get the lead runner, tossed to first to put out Cedric Mullins.

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Orioles reliever Tyler Wells (2-3) walked Luke Voit to start the ninth and Torres followed with a single. Pinch-runner Tyler Wade and Torres pulled off a double steal with one out as it began to rain.

Gardner followed with a single to center that scored both runs, much to the delight of their fans that flocked to Camden Yards.

Wandy Peralta (5-3) earned the win and Aroldis Chapman got his 27th save.

Gio Urshela launched a two-run homrer into the left-center bleachers in the third. Urshela took over as the full-time shortstop this week for the error-prone Torres and had a diving catch off a hard liner by Austin Wynns for the final out in the fifth.

Mullins took a two-run homer away from Gary Sanchez in the second with a leaping grab over the center-field fence. Orioles starter John Means pointed to Mullins in celebration and Sanchez walked back to the dugout in disbelief.

Means had another effective outing and permitted two runs and four hits with four strikeouts and two walks in 5 2/3 innings.

It was the fifth time this season the Orioles failed to score a run when Means was on the mound. Hays homered in the sixth and added his 20th of the season in the eighth.

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Cole, Sánchez, Chapman come through as Yanks edge Blue Jays

Gerrit Cole pitched eight effective innings, pinch-hitter Gary Sánchez connected for a two-run homer and Aroldis Chapman dodged trouble in the ninth as the New York Yankees held off the Toronto Blue Jays 3-2 on Wednesday night.

Sánchez’s 10th homer of the season in the seventh gave the Yankees back-to-back victories behind key pinch hits, following Clint Frazier’s go-ahead double in the eighth inning of Tuesday’s 6-5 victory.

Chapman permitted hits to the first two batters in the ninth, putting runners at second and third, but escaped for his 14th save. Cole (8-3) held the Blue Jays to four hits.

Marcus Semien and Cavan Biggio homered for Toronto, which has lost three straight and five of seven. Ross Stripling (2-4) limited New York to three hits and two walks over 6 1/3 innings and tied a season high with nine strikeouts.

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In the ninth, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. led off with a single and Teoscar Hernández followed with a double to right field. After striking out Randal Grichuk, Chapman fielded a comebacker and started a play in which Sánchez threw out Guerrero, who was trying to retreat to third base. The call was upheld after a 70-second video review.

Chapman then got Lourdes Gurriel Jr. to fly out to end the game.

The ninth-inning drama overshadowed a fine pitching duel between Cole and Stripling.

After the Yankees scored a first-inning run, Stripling set down 18 of 20 batters and allowed no hits until Miguel Andújar singled leading off the seventh, the precursor to Sánchez’s homer, which elicited chants of “Gary! Gary!” from a Yankees-centric crowd of 7,271 at Toronto’s temporary home in western New York.

Cole, meanwhile, retired 22 of his last 25 batters, with the only blemishes being a two-out walk in the second inning, Biggio’s fifth-inning homer, and Hernández reaching on an error in the sixth.

Toronto reliever Rafael Doliz, who substituted Stripling, left the game with an apparent injury after issuing a four-pitch walk.

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LaVine, Markkanen lead Bulls past Raptors, 114-102

Zach LaVine scored 24 points, Lauri Markkanen added 20 and the Chicago Bulls defeated the short-handed Toronto Raptors 114-102 on Thursday night.

The Bulls pulled within two games of idle Washington with two remaining for 10th place in the Eastern Conference and the final play-in spot.

Chicago led by 24 in the third quarter, with the Raptors holding out their best players, and came away with the victory despite a big effort by Stanley Johnson.

“We don’t control our own desiny, but we live another day, so to speak here,” coach Billy Donovan said. “It’s out of our hands. And I thought it was important that we show up and do our job as best we can.”

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LaVine, coming off a 41-point in Tuesday’s loss to Brooklyn, scored 16 in the second half.

Markkanen made six 3-pointers — one shy of his season high.

Coby White had 17 points and 10 assists. Nikola Vucevic added 16 points and 16 rebounds to help the Bulls win for the fourth time in five matches.

Johnson led Toronto with a career-high 35 points. The sixth-year pro nailed six 3s and grabbed 10 rebounds while playing turnover-free ball.

“You put a lot of work in, you put a lot of effort into something, to get a positive result and affection is always good,” Johnson said.

“As much as you kill yourself when you’re down, you’ve got to give yourself a pat on the butt when you’re up. … To be able to play a decent game, a good game, I’m happy.”

Rookie Jalen Harris scored a personal-best 17. Malachi Flynn added 16 points. But Toronto lost for the eighth time in nine games.

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George Springer debuts for Toronto Blue Jays, goes 0-for-4 in loss to Washington Nationals

Erick Fedde went six strong innings, Josh Harrison hit a three-run homer and the Washington Nationals defeated Toronto 8-2 in George Springer’s Blue Jays debut Wednesday night.

Fedde (2-2) permitted one run and two hits, including a fifth-inning solo homer by Lourdes Gurriel Jr. The right-hander struck out seven and walked three.

“With cutter, sinker, the combination is really good because he works both sides of the plate,” Washington manager Dave Martinez stated. “Today he threw a lot of curveballs, and it was effective for him as well. When you get can all those pitches in the strike zone as you can see he’s real tough to hit.”

Harrison got his third homer in 16 at-bats against Steven Matz (4-1), a three-run shot in the fourth that made it 6-0. Springer, who signed a team-record $150 million US, six-year deal this off-season, went 0 for 4.

The World Series MVP when Houston won its first title in 2017 missed time in spring training and the start of the season because of a strained oblique and later due to a right quadriceps strain.

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“He ran fine, saw a lot of pitches, which is good,” Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said.

Trea Turner had four hits and Josh Bell also homered for the Nationals.

Toronto got an eighth-inning solo homer from Bo Bichette.

Matz, obtained from the New York Mets in January after going 0-5 with a 9.68 ERA last season, had won his first four starts for Toronto. He gave up six runs and eight hits over 3 2/3 innings.

The lefty is 1-8 against Washington. Since the start of last season, Matz has permitted 22 earned runs and eight homers over 14 innings in four games versus the Nationals.

“He just wasn’t as sharp today,” Montoyo said. “He still has the stuff but didn’t locate as well.”

Ryan Zimmerman drove in two with a single during a three-run third. Bell hit a two-run homer in the fifth.

Toronto loaded the bases with two outs in the third but failed to score when Turner, at short, fielded Randal Grichuk’s slow grounder barehanded and threw him out at first.

“I remember that ball just trickled by me … you’ve got to be kidding me,” Fedde said. “I think my initial reaction was `Oh no, it’s bare hand.’ Then an unbelievable play.”

Blue Jays catcher Danny Jansen went 0 for 3 with a walk. He is hitless in a career-long 34 at-bats.

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