BEIJING • Emotional Simona Halep called it the best day of her life as she surged to No. 1 in the world for the first time after reaching the China Open final yesterday.
The Romanian tennis player, who said her next goal is to win a maiden Grand Slam, defeated Latvia's Jelena Ostapenko 6-2, 6-4 in their semi-final.
Her ousting of Spaniard Garbine Muguruza at the top of the women's game will be officially confirmed tomorrow, when the latest rankings are released.
The 26-year-old is the fifth woman - the others being Angelique Kerber, Serena Williams and Karolina Pliskova - to hold top spot this year, but the first Romanian in the history of the WTA.
She smiled broadly, then cried and was presented with a flower arrangement in the figure "1" - which she hugged tightly - to celebrate the landmark moment.
"My dream is true now, in that moment you cannot believe 100 per cent that it's happening, so I was in tears a little bit," she said. "Maybe first time on court (to cry) nice tears... It's the best moment in my life and I want just to keep it.
"Now tomorrow already I have just to restart everything, to start again to play the same and to work harder. And I have a few more dreams in my career."
Asked what those were, she smiled and said: "I tell you one, only one: to win a Grand Slam, which you know."
Halep saw off former No. 1 Maria Sharapova earlier this week in Beijing and yesterday's defeat of Ostapenko had a whiff of revenge - the 20-year-old won their duel in the French Open final in June.
Halep will face Caroline Garcia of France, who beat Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic 6-3, 7-5, in today's China Open final.
The Romanian, who squandered numerous chances to go top in recent months, was always in control against world No. 8 Ostapenko and put herself on the way to victory when she broke the talented Latvian in the first game of the first set.
In the lead-up to the Beijing tournament, Halep said she was unconcerned about becoming world No. 1, but admitted yesterday with a grin: "Of course I wanted it. When I was five points away I felt that I want it more and more."
In the men's tournament, world No. 1 Rafael Nadal beat Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov 6-3, 4-6, 6-1 to reach his ninth final of the year.
The top-seeded Spaniard took control from the start, winning 13 consecutive points on his own serve and breaking Dimitrov to seal the first set in 35 minutes.
Nadal led the second set 3-1 but the world No. 8 fought back to level at 4-4 before clinching the set.
The Bulgarian's eye-catching shots were not enough to overcome the 31-year-old, however, and Nadal broke serve three times in the deciding set.
The 16-time Grand Slam winner is on course to win his 75th singles title and will face Australian Nick Kyrgios, who beat German Alexander Zverev 6-3, 7-5, in the final today.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
WTA CHINA OPEN
Final: StarHub Ch203, 4.30pm
ATP CHINA OPEN
Final: StarHub Ch201, 7.30pm