US Open 2018: Halep primed for lengthy stint at number one

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The WTA's top ranking changed hands on 10 occasions between September 2016 and February of this year, but may well have found a long-term keeper in Simona Halep.

Having threatened to become the women's world number one on several occasions, an ecstatic Halep finally achieved the goal last October when reaching the final of the China Open.

And while many players in recent years have endured short stints atop the rankings, the Romanian looks capable of staying there for some time.

Halep was briefly usurped by Caroline Wozniacki following the Dane's Australian Open triumph in January, but swiftly regained pole position and will begin the US Open having spent 27 consecutive weeks at the summit of the game and 43 in total.

What is more, her lead over Wozniacki is now a healthy 2,086 points, courtesy of Halep enjoying comfortably the most consistent season of her career.

A long-awaited first grand slam success at Roland Garros in June marks the undoubted highlight of her campaign, but Halep has also won titles in Shenzhen and Montreal, reached three further finals and made at least the semis in eight of the 12 tournaments she has played.

Should Halep remain number one for the rest of the year, a scenario that appears highly likely, only Wozniacki (71 weeks), Justine Henin (117) and Serena Williams (319) will have spent more weeks in the position since the latter first hit top spot in July 2002.

Williams' longest unbroken stint as number one - a remarkable 186-week stretch - ended in September 2016, prompting a period of flux in the rankings that saw the American and Angelique Kerber frequently switch places before Karolina Pliskova, Garbine Muguruza, Halep and Wozniacki all earned top spot in quick succession.

For a time, almost every grand slam presented an opportunity for multiple players to reach the peak of the women's game.

Yet that will not be the case at Flushing Meadows. Halep is sure to leave New York as the top-ranked player and has a fine chance of extending her lead over Wozniacki given she has barely any points to defend after making a first-round exit 12 months ago.

A potential fourth-round meeting with Serena or Venus Williams would provide a tough test, but Halep should be full of confidence having won the Rogers Cup and reached the final of the Cincinnati Masters in the lead-up to the year's final major.

And regardless of how she fares at the US Open, the future certainly looks bright for a player a month shy of her 27th birthday and seemingly coming into her peak years.

Speaking at a pre-tournament media day on Friday, Halep oozed confidence as she discussed the mental boost she has gained from achieving two long-term goals - becoming world number one and winning a slam - in the last 12 months.

She had to endure several near-misses before chalking off both milestones, but now appears primed to kick on to the next level and enjoy a period of dominance.