New York: Just as Simona Halep has stopped focusing on becoming World No 1, the second-ranked Romanian has become the woman to beat for the top spot at the US Open.
Eight women have a chance to claim the World No 1 ranking after the year's final Grand Slam event, which opens Monday on the New York hardcourts with Halep facing Maria Sharapova in the feature match.
But after losing three matches in the past three months with a chance to claim the top ranking, Halep feels burned by thinking too much about what the achievement would mean.
"I lost three times the opportunity to get there. So enough is enough," Halep said. "If I think, 'looks like I cannot make it,' maybe I change. If I'm not thinking about it, maybe I will be more relaxed and I can get it.
"If I deserve it, I will win it. If not, that's it."
Halep lost playing for World No 1 in the French Open final against Jelena Ostapenko and a Wimbledon quarter-final against Britain's Johanna Konta, falling each time after taking the first set.
Then she was humbled 6-1, 6-0 a week ago by Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza of Spain in the Cincinnati final with yet another chance at World No 1.
"I was close, in French Open really close. And then in Wimbledon, but I can't say about final in Cincinnati because the score was pretty bad so I was not close," Halep said.
"I thought about it too much and maybe the pressure came in important moments, so now is gone. Everyone can take the No 1."
Czech Karolina Pliskova, last year's US Open runner-up, owns the top spot and can take at the tournament along with Halep, Konta, Muguruza, Ukraine's Elina Svitolina, Dane Caroline Wozniacki, Russia's Svetlana Kuznetsova and US seven-time Grand Slam winner Venus Williams.
"Everyone gets more confidence that everything is possible," Halep said. "All the players have to be more confident and to think that everyone can do big things."
Defending champion Angelique Kerber of Germany cannot gain points so can't take the top spot. And 2016 US Open runner-up Pliskova defends so many points that it's Halep who has the inside track.
Wozniacki, Konta, Kuznetsova and Williams would each have to win the title to have a chance at the top spot. Pliskova must reach the final. Svitolina needs a semi-final spot and Muguruza must reach the fourth round.
And that's just if Halep loses to five-time Grand Slam winner Sharapova, who owns a 6-0 record against the Romanian. The deeper Halep goes, the harder it gets for the rest.
"I don't feel any difference," Pliskova said. "I just try to handle it. Just take match by match. I don't want to put any extra pressure. I have enough of pressure.
"I know it's going to be very difficult with so many girls playing for this position, but I think I have a good chance to stay there if I play well."
'Very great feeling'
Wozniacki, 0-6 in WTA finals this year, would love to end her drought in Grand Slam fashion and take the top spot.
"You can make big jumps if you have a great event. I'm excited to be in the position I'm in," Wozniacki said.
"As long as I keep putting myself in those situations, I'm pretty happy with that."
Former World No 1 Kerber, however, says the top ranking brings a happier feeling.
"It's for sure a very great feeling to be World No 1 because this is what you were always dreaming for," Kerber said. "It's not so easy to get there, but if you are there, it's a feeling you'll never forget."
Published Date: Aug 28, 2017 18:05 PM | Updated Date: Aug 28, 2017 18:05 PM