LONDON, England -- Teen queen Maria Sharapova became the first Russian to reach the summit of women's tennis on Monday when named world No. 1 in the WTA rankings.
Although Sharapova was unable to repeat her 2004 Wimbledon win, she has finally ousted U.S. veteran Lindsay Davenport who led the way for 10 months.
Eighteen-year-old Sharapova had appeared on course to secure the top spot a week ago, needing only to reach the semifinals in Carson, California.
Her hopes then were dashed when a strained pectoral muscle began to bother her, forcing her to withdraw before her quarterfinal match.
Determined to be fit for the US Open, the final Grand Slam of the year that starts on August 29 in New York, Sharapova then missed the tournament in Toronto that ended on Sunday.
But with Davenport also idle, it didn't stop the glamorous Russian grabbing the coveted No. 1 days before the US Open draw.
"To be honest, I was surprised I was number one up until today," Davenport said Sunday as she prepared to compete in the US Open tuneup in New Haven, Connecticut.
For Sharapova, achieving the top spot while sitting on the sidelines took none of the gloss off the accomplishment.
"You have to achieve something in order to get there," she said as she looked toward her impending coronation.
"It has been an amazing two years. It has been all hard work and dedication. The achievement is amazing."
Belgian Kim Clijsters, who defeated compatriot Justine Henin-Hardenne in the Toronto final on Sunday, climbed four places to fourth behind Davenport and France's Amelie Mauresmo.
Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova, struggling as her defense of her US Open title looms, fell a spot to fifth ahead of compatriot Elena Dementieva.
Henin-Hardenne dropped two places to seventh, while Australian Open champion Serena Williams fell one spot to eighth.
WTA World rankings
1. Maria Sharapova (Rus) 4452 pts
2. Lindsay Davenport (U.S.) 4300
3. Amelie Mauresmo (Fr) 3718
4. Kim Clijsters (Bel) 3179
5. Svetlana Kuznetsova (Rus) 3168
6. Elena Dementieva (Rus) 2987
7. Justine Henin-Hardenne (Bel) 2941
8. Serena Williams (USA) 2845
9. Nadia Petrova (RUS) 2720
10. Venus Williams (U.S.) 2658
11. Patty Schnyder (Swi) 2376
12. Mary Pierce (Fr) 2286
13. Anastasia Myskina (Rus) 2095
14. Alicia Molik (Aus) 1796
15. Nathalie Dechy (Fr) 1732
16. Elena Bovina (Rus) 1568
17. Jelena Jankovic (SEM) 1462.25
18. Ana Ivanovic (SEM) 1450.75
19. Vera Zvonareva (Rus) 1388
20. Elena Likhovtseva (Rus) 1356
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This may not be the most glamorous finish to a WTA year, but it might be the most exciting -- and least predictable.
With six tournaments remaining on the docket before the WTA Finals in Singapore, the list of contenders for the coveted year-end No. 1 ranking is as deep as the eight-woman field that will gather in Singapore. The gap between No. 1 Garbine Muguruza and No. 8 Jelena Ostapenko is 2,115 points -- a deficit that could conceivably be overcome by any of the top players.
Nobody among the top four WTA players is entered in a tournament after this week in Beijing, and that quartet is separated from each by a paltry 640 points. Here's a breakdown:
No. 1 Garbine Muguruza (6,245 points)
The Wimbledon champion retired from her first-round match in Beijing on Monday with an unspecified virus. Not exactly great timing as the season winds down.
With an opening-round loss Monday in Beijing, Garbine Muguruza hurt her chances of ending the year as the No. 1 player. AP Photo/Andy Wong
The 23-year-old Spaniard's hold on the top ranking is tenuous at best. She is just 4-3 since she reached No. 1 at the US Open. Muguruza qualified for the WTA Finals last year but won just one match in the round-robin phase. Although she's officially done with regular-season tour play, she could still ask for a wild card into an upcoming tournament if she wants to pad her rankings lead.
The Romanian dynamo is much-loved and admired, and her sleek, appealing game has proved its worth innumerable times. So why is it that the prospect of winning a Grand Slam title, or earning the No. 1 ranking, is tantamount to exposing her to Kryptonite?
Halep is not scheduled for any more events after Beijing, where she's still trying to right herself after that devastating first-round loss to Maria Sharapova at the US Open. Halep has won just one match since that upset (where she was the No. 2 seed at the Open). She has been a contender at Singapore the past three years running. She reached the championship match in her first appearance but has tailed off with a 5-6 record since.
She's a great dark horse pick to end the year ranked No. 1, although she is defending two upcoming semifinals (Beijing, Moscow) and could see significant points drop off.
The rap on Svitolina has been that she doesn't step up her game when it counts most, at the majors. True, the 23-year-old Ukrainian has made just two quarterfinals at Grand Slams in her career. But she leads the WTA with five singles finals this year, winning four of those. Svitolina upended Caroline Wozniacki in two of those deciders and Halep in another. Winning breeds winning; Svitolina could take out her Grand Slam frustrations on the field at Singapore.
This 25-year-old Czech was handed a gift earlier this year, when she backed into the top ranking because of early losses by those ranked above her. Pliskova did not make the most of her opportunity, which answered some questions in the minds of those wondering if she was cut from championship timber.
While she didn't exactly melt down from the pressure after reaching No. 1 in July, Pliskova failed to raise her game and consolidate her position. But she can still confound the skeptics. She trails Muguruza by a little more than 600 points. Pliskova qualified for Singapore last year for the first time, but she won just one round-robin match.
The drop-off from Pliskova to Williams is nearly 1,000 rankings points. Williams' fate isn't entirely in her own hands, but while the women ranked above her are done with tour events, she is playing Hong Kong. With the points she might earn there, and up to 1,500 available in Singapore, anything can happen -- even if it probably won't.
Williams is by far the most experienced and successful of the women who will be competing in Singapore. Her singles record is 11-5, and she won the title in 2008. At 37, Williams has been selective in her scheduling. She hasn't played a tour event since the US Open, but if she's well-rested and gets a few matches under her belt in Hong Kong, she could be formidable.
No. 6 Caroline Wozniacki (4,640 points)Editor's Picks
Unseeded Caroline Garcia of France won her first title of the year Saturday, beating Ashleigh Barty 6-7 (3), 7-6 (4), 6-2 in the Wuhan Open final.
Kateryna Bondarenko won her first WTA tour title in nine years as she edged Timea Babos in Tashkent.
Johanna Konta's poor run hit a new low with a 6-1, 6-2 defeat by Monica Niculescu in the opening round of the China Open.
It would be nothing short of amazing if Wozniacki were to become the year-end No. 1 for a third time, still without having won a Grand Slam. The feat also would be a testament to the athleticism and stamina that drive her to play more tournaments than almost all of her peers. She is the ultimate WTA grinder, and she's proud of it.
But Wozniacki has the same problem as Halep. The Dane is always a contender, but she seems unable to step up to win the big one. Nevertheless, Wozniacki is in her prime at 27, she has overcome some injury issues, and is loaded with enthusiasm and determination -- two especially powerful factors in today's WTA. Wozniacki has compiled a 9-4 record at a quartet of WTA Finals.
The 26-year-old British player stood by idly last year as Svetlana Kuznetsova grabbed the eighth -- and final -- qualifying spot for Singapore out of her hands. Until Monday, it seemed that we might see a repeat of that battle this year. But Kuznetsova was eliminated from contention in Beijing, while Konta secured a berth in Singapore.
Konta's biggest problem going forward is likely to be confidence. After a great start, she sputtered out in the summer. She hasn't won a singles match since mid-August. That's a lot of bad karma to overcome, but those five consecutive first-round losses have left her fresh for the two tournaments that remain on her regular-season schedule.
No. 8 Jelena Ostapenko (4,130 points)
The 20-year-old who stunned the world when she won the French Open in June has regained that form this fall. So far, she's won the title in Seoul and was a semifinalist in Wuhan.
It might seem like the 2,115 rankings point by which she trails Muguruza is too much to overcome, but here's the important thing: Ostapenko has no points to defend. Everything she earns will be gravy, and she's entered in Linz and Moscow before Singapore starts. She could vault right to the top if she goes on a tear. It's late in an exhausting year, and Ostapenko would probably have to rip through the field in Singapore to take the top ranking. But it's a possibility.
As it is for all the women chasing the No. 1 ranking.Sponsored Headlines ABOUT COOKIES
After as many as five lost opportunities to take the No.1 ranking, Simona Halep has finally achieved the feat this week by reaching the final of the China Open with a 6-2 6-4 victory over Jelena Ostapenko. Dethroning current No.1 Garbine Muguruza, Halep has become the 25th woman in WTA history to hold the top spot, and the first one from Romania.
The 26-year-old Halep’s first chance to win the coveted ranking was actually against Ostapenko, who then stunned her in the French Open final to win the first title of her young career. Four more chances followed — at Eastbourne, Wimbledon, Cincinnati and the US Open — and now, in a rematch of the French Open championship match, Halep finally grabbed the No.1 ranking on her sixth try, exuding composure against inconsistent Ostapenko.
The second-seeded Halep, who will officially be the No.1 on Monday, October 9th, opened the semifinal match with a love break and closed it with a love hold, imposing superior serve throughout, winning 75% of points on her first serve during the encounter that lasted one hour and 15 minutes.
The China Open has been really remarkable for Halep, as she has not only won the top ranking and avenged her Roland Garros loss to Ostapenko, but earlier in the week she also avenged her first-round US Open loss to Maria Sharapova and her recent Wuhan defeat to Daria Kasatkina.7 thoughts on “ Composed Halep clinches WTA No.1 ranking, reaches the China Open final ”
Should have been the same scoreline in the French Open final. Congratulations Simona. She looks absolutely delighted.
I am so bored with who is number one and when Simona Halep will get to be it and what game she will need to win to get the points. At least now maybe everyone will stop talking about her. I have nothing against her, but I have no idea why she is such a favourite. She doesn’t seem to have a particularly interesting game. I guess its because Serena and Maria and Victoria are all out of action, or Maria has been and is just coming back, that the next level of people are all alternating for no 1 depending on who has won recently. VERY boring.
Wanted to see Garbine hang on to that No. 1 ranking a little more but congrats to Simona, happy she finally got there. I don’t see her being there for very long but I hope she makes the most out of it, she’s a nice player.
This year, we saw a lot of changes in the number 1 ranking. I think with Simona’s consistency, we can see a longer period where she’s number 1 until Serena comes back stronger. Garbi is also playing well. I think it’s an exciting race for year end no. 1.
Emman Damian, since Halep’s first chance to grab the top spot, two players have held it, Pliskova and Muguruza, if we don’t count Kerber, then the reigning No.1.
Do you think other players can still grab it? I think Elina Svitolina has a chance if she performs well in the YE championships.
Emman Damian, I also think so. She’s not defending YEC points and the tournament offers a lot of points, so sure she has a chance.
A post shared by Karolina Pliskova (@karolinapliskova) on Jul 15, 2017 at 5:08am PDT
The race for the WTA No. 1 could not be more wide open, especially with Serena Williams taking the rest of the year off and Angelique Kerber unable to maintain her 2016 form.
Pliskova is now officially #WTA No.1, pushes Kerber to No.3, Halep stays No.2, Muguruza & Konta enter Top 5, Serena falls 11 spots to No.15.
— Women's Tennis Blog (@womenstennis) July 17, 2017
Simona Halep looked ready to take the top spot when she was up a set and 3-0 in the French Open final, but she couldn’t hold on against Jelena Ostapenko’s powerful strokes. At Wimbledon, Halep needed to defeat Johanna Konta in the quarterfinals for the No. 1 ranking, but she lost again. If she ever gets there, she'd become the first WTA No. 1 from Romania.
The courage to continue counts the most. The best is yet to come, @Simona_Halep! . pic.twitter.com/YWQtMe8EGU
Meanwhile, Karolina Pliskova slipped into the top ranking with a second-round defeat at Wimbledon. She is the 23rd WTA player and first female Czech player to achieve the feat. Despite the early loss at the All England Club, she has been consistent in big tournaments including her 2016 US Open final and French Open semifinal run.
Pliskova holds titles at Eastbourne, Doha, Brisbane and Cincinnati. She has joined a short list of players who got to No. 1 without (or before) winning a major:
— Christopher Clarey (@christophclarey) July 11, 2017
The summer stretch run to the U.S. Open series could see the No. 1 battle go to several different players. There are now eight players separated by 804 points in the 2017 Road to Singapore with Halep holding the slight lead.
Pliskova will need to defend big points at Cincinnati and the US Open. The top spot could be seized by the player who wins in New York.
A post shared by Karolina Pliskova (@karolinapliskova) on Jul 11, 2017 at 12:59pm PDT
It could be Muguruza with her recent boost of Wimbledon confidence:
Johanna Konta has continued her upswing in big matches, and she already has the Miami title on American hard courts:
Konta becomes 1st British to win Miami Open title with career-best win over Wozniacki https://t.co/gMjuMvaagq pic.twitter.com/po9ZBOU1CR
— British Open (@BritishOpen2009) April 5, 2017
Or maybe Elina Svitolina or Caroline Woznaicki will produce a torrid run?
20-year-old Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko leads the young talent this summer at #RogersCup: https://t.co/6a2N37mKbp. pic.twitter.com/WwZX1EnH72
— Rogers Cup Toronto (@rogerscup) July 18, 2017
Kerber is still No. 3, she's not to be counted out quite yet. While Halep has been knocking on the door for a long time (she first rose to No. 2 in 2014).
“Yeah, now that I’m so close, it’s like it’s coming more into my mind and into my soul," Halep said in late June. “I really want to get there. But I’m close, but still far. So I have just to take match by match and to do everything I can to be No.1. It’s going to be a big thing for me.”MORE STORIES
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