Currently ranked second in the general rankings, Simona Halep, 25, will make another bid for that elusive world No. 1 slot. It's been a while since she got within reach of the summit but each time she failed to make that extra step required. Now, with Karolina Pliskova at the top, things have changed for the Romanian as she is no longer alone in the area. Both Elina Svitolina and Caroline Wozniacki are closing the gap entering Premier 5 event in Cincinnati. Making it to her second French Open final earlier this year, Halep really turned her season the other way around during the clay court swing.

When it comes to the North American second hard court swing, she has been a constant name throughout the past couple of seasons.

The North American outdoor hard swing

2016 Rogers Cup champion and a semifinalist at Cincinnati, she ended her 2016 US Open Series by reaching the quarterfinals of the US Open for the second year in a row. She is, therefore, expected to be a relevant name this season too. She had a sloppy start in Washington and then she made it to the semis in Toronto.

Now, Cincinnati stands as the last warm-up session prior to the US Open and a lot of top players would love to make some deep runs at the Western&Southern Open in Ohio. Last year, Halep lost in the semis against Angelique Kerber.

Her best outcome in Ohio to date was reaching the final of the 2015 edition when she was a runner-up to Serena Williams.

Seeded second in the main draw, Simona Halep received a bye for the round of 64. In the next phase, she will face Taylor Townsend who skidded past Monica Puig in the first round. If she gets past Townsend, Halep may face Anastasija Sevastova next.

The quarterfinals may bring Johanna Konta to the other side of the net. It would be a place to put in some revenge tennis given the fact that the Brit player ousted Halep at Wimbledon. As in 2016, the semis may bring Angelique Kerber to the other side but the former world No. 1 has to survive a hellish quarter of the draw which includes Elina Svitolina and Petra Kvitova.

The world No. 1 door is about to close

Failing to reach the summit twice at the French Open and Wimbledon when she came within a few inches of the target, Halep saw herself trying to handle the pressure and the level of expectations. With Svitolina, Wozniacki or even Muguruza racing from behind, the task will be even harder. If the current world No.1 Karolina Pliskova loses in the early stages in Cincinnati, the race for the top spot will become even more intense before the US Open. For Halep who has been standing in purgatory for the past few months, this could be her chance.