CINCINNATI (Ohio) • Simona Halep again failed to become women's tennis' world No. 1 after Garbine Muguruza stormed to a 6-1, 6-0 win at the Cincinnati Open on Sunday.
This is the third time in three months that the Romanian has been one win away from taking the top spot, only to lose.
In the French Open final, she threw away a set and three-game lead over Jelena Ostapenko, while at Wimbledon she had match point over Johanna Konta before losing in three sets.
Halep would have become the fourth woman to hold the top spot this year after Serena Williams, Angelique Kerber and Karolina Pliskova, who will now extend her reign as world No. 1 into a sixth week.
Despite progressing to the final without losing a set, the 25-year-old was totally outclassed by Muguruza, this year's Wimbledon champion, who needed only 56 minutes to win her second title of the season, the first time she has won multiple events in a single year.
The sixth-seeded Spaniard captured her first title in America, taking the US$522,450 (S$712,000) top prize in the last major tune-up for the US Open.
"The American swing was never going my way," Muguruza said. "Finally, this year, I improved that."
Halep apologised to spectators after the embarrassing defeat, thanking them for support "even if I played so bad and Muguruza played so well".
Halep's coach, Darren Cahill, told ESPN the French Open loss still haunts her, saying: "There's still a little leftover residue from Paris. It takes some time to get over that."
Muguruza, who climbed three places to third in the latest rankings, becomes a favourite to capture a third career Grand Slam crown in Flushing Meadows after taking Wimbledon and last year's French Open.
"I'm happy people see me as a favourite but it not always happens that you win a tournament and then go ahead and win a Grand Slam," the 23-year-old said. "I'm happy to have the confidence. Beats not having it."
Grigor Dimitrov clinched the biggest title of his career and enjoyed a huge confidence boost ahead of the US Open by beating Nick Kyrgios 6-3, 7-5 to win the men's event.
With three of the "Big Four" players nursing injuries and new men's world No. 1 Rafael Nadal knocked out in the quarter-finals by Kyrgios, the Bulgarian grasped his chance with both hands, winning his first Masters 1000 series event under a scorching sun.
A break in each set was enough for the seventh seed to claim his third title of the year and seventh of his career.
"I'm just happy. There's nothing else I can say, honestly," the 26-year-old said.
THE TIMES, LONDON, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS