BEIJING: Simona Halep has become world number one for the first time by beating Jelena Ostapenko to reach the final of the China Open.
Romanian Halep won 6-2 6-4 in Beijing and will replace Spain’s Garbine Muguruza at the top of the rankings.
She will face France’s Caroline Garcia, who beat Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic 6-3 7-5, in Sunday’s final.
Garcia also maintained her hopes of denying Britain’s Johanna Konta a place at the WTA Finals.
If the Frenchwoman wins the China Open, Konta must reach the final of the Kremlin Cup, which starts on 16 October, to claim the eighth and final place at the season finale in Singapore.
World number 15 Garcia has put together a decent run of form in the latter stages of the season.
Last month, she claimed the biggest title of her career at the Wuhan Open in China, beating Australian Ashleigh Barty in the final.
And in Beijing, the 23-year-old was dominant on her second serve and broke Kvitova to close out the match and line up a final against the new world number one.
Halep rises to the top
Halep, 26, will be confirmed in the number one spot when the rankings are released on Monday.
Having suffered a shock defeat by Ostapenko in this year’s French Open final, Halep was always in control in her semi-final against the world number eight.
In June, Ostapenko denied Halep both a first Grand Slam title and the number one ranking with a stunning win in Paris.
The 20-year-old Latvian trailed by a set and was 3-0 down in the second but prevailed to become the first unseeded woman to win at Roland Garros since 1933.
But Saturday’s semi-final was a more one-sided affair as Halep broke Ostapenko in the first game of the match.
Her serve was superior throughout – she won 75% of points on her first serve as she was broken just once.