Simona Halep will take over as the new number one in the WTA world rankings after progressing to the China Open final with a dominant 6-2 6-4 victory over Latvia’s Jelena Ostapenko in Beijing on Saturday.
The Romanian avenged this year’s French Open final defeat to the hard-hitting Ostapenko with a ruthless display of all-round tennis that saw her send down five aces and 14 winners to oust the 20-year-old in 75 minutes.
The 26-year-old takes over the top spot from Spaniard Garbine Muguruza and will become the first Romanian to head the rankings when the updated standings are released on Monday.
“It’s very emotional, I think it’s the first time I cried on court,” Halep said in a post-match interview. “It’s amazing that I could do this. My team, everyone at home... is watching, and I want to thank everyone. It’s my special day.”
Ostapenko, for her part, put on a lackluster performance and recorded 32 unforced errors as she failed to make any inroads on her opponent's solid defense. Halep also broke the Latvian’s serve four times, including in the first game of the match.
The Latvian showed some resistance in the second set to forge a 4-3 lead but Halep won three consecutive games to seal a victory she will remember for the rest of her life.
WTA CEO Steve Simon and tour president Micky Lawler presented Halep, who had come close to topping the rankings on three different occasions earlier this year, with a memento to mark her achievement after the match.
Halep will be looking for her second tournament victory of the season in what will be her fifth final of the year against either 12th-seeded Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic or unseeded Frenchwoman Caroline Garcia on Sunday.