Simona Halep, 25, has chosen City Open in Washington ( WTA International event) to kick off the North American campaign on hard court. Initially, it should've been Stanford the place to put things in motion, but the Romanian tennis star didn't receive a wild-card there. Shifting her focus to Washington, she got acceptance in the main draw as the No. 1 seed. The opening round saw the current world No. 2 breezing past Sloane Stephens.

The second phase brought a tricky Columbian on the other end of the court as Mariana Duque-Marino tested Halep under a scorching heat.

In the end, the gap between them became obvious. Even so, they put up a highly-entertaining match. For Halep it's all good as she could use several warm-up matches before Rogers Cup, Cincinnati and of course US Open.

Simona Halep needed three sets as she recovered from a set down

Reaching the last eight stages at City Open didn't come as easy as some may think. The 27-year-old Duque-Marino (115 WTA) raced past Halep to win the opening set by 6-3. The second act had the No. 1 seed taking control of the match as she quickly raced to a 5-1 lead only to watch her opponent closing the gap. At 5-4 for Halep, Marino failed to win on her serve thus handing the set to Halep. The third set was about Simona Halep trying to impose her own rhythm to the match.

Eventually, she succeeded in her quest capping the set by 6-2. It was a genuine test for the highest ranked player in the main draw, and another one might be right around the corner.

In the last eight stages, Halep will face Ekaterina Makarova (58 WTA) from Russia. Despite her current low-ranking status, Makarova is not an easy opponent to deal with.

In head to head stats, Halep leads her by 3-1 with their last direct confrontation taking place more than a year ago at Indian Wells.

The world No. 1 spot and US Open quest

Last year, Simona Halep did great during the summer swing in North America. She went on winning at Rogers Cup, and in Cincinnati, she reached the semis before losing to Angelique Kerber.

The US Open saw her reaching the last eight stages before being ousted by Serena Williams in what was a thrilling encounter and one of the best matches of that tournament.

For the past few months, Simona Halep has been stalking the world No. 1 spot. So far, she failed on three different occasions to reach that elusive slot. The upcoming weeks might change the current situation, but there is a new villain in town as Garbine Muguruza is racing from behind after winning 2017 Wimbledon.