The ranking system was introduced to the WTA in 1975. The first woman to be ranked number one was Chris Evert on November 3rd, 1975. Steffi Graf was the fifth woman to be ranked number one and she held that position for a combined total of 377 weeks (the longest to date).
Angelique Kerber was the twenty-second woman to be ranked number one and while she has won a couple of major titles, she has never been a convincing number one. She held the position for a combined total of thirty-four weeks. Kerber has not won a title since the 2016 US Open.
Serena Williams was the twelfth female to attain the status of number one; she did so on July 8th, 2002 and she held that position for a combined total of 319 weeks. If not for her pregnancy, she would still be number one. Williams was the last dominant number one ranked female player on the WTA Tour; while many may question her commitment to the sport, no one can deny that she wore the mantle of number one well. She embraced her position atop the sport and when she stepped on court, everyone knew it would take a lot to defeat her because there is nothing Williams hates more than losing to an opponent on the tennis court.
Once Williams left on maternity leave, Kerber regained the number one ranking; however, that was by default and not a result of her performance. Karolina Pliskova achieved the ranking not by winning a major title but by going further in the draw than Kerber; she became the twenty-third female to be ranked number one and held that position for eight weeks.
Garbine Muguruza began the process of achieving the number one ranking by winning Wimbledon this year. She has two major titles to her name (2017 Wimbledon and 2016 French Open) and seemed ready to wear the mantle of number. However, many are beginning to realize just how difficult it is to stay atop the sport and appreciate even more those players who have been able to stay atop the ranking for more than hundred weeks combined. While many may recognize that “pressure is a privilege” as said by the great Billie Jean King, many more are beginning to realize the toll that privilege takes. Muguruza held on to the number one ranking for four weeks before she was replaced by the current number one.
Simona Halep has flirted with the number one ranking all season and had numerous occasions to claim the number one ranking; however, the prospect of becoming number one became too much of a burden for the Romanian and she faltered, losing matches she should have won. She finally overcame the emotional hurdle and claimed the number one ranking on October 9th, 2017. She is the first Romanian to be ranked number one and the twenty-fifth female to achieve that status.
Getting to number one is not easy; however, staying at number one is even more difficult and seems to require not only skill but a desire to embrace the spotlight. It also requires a certain mental fortitude that seems to elude many players; thus, it will be interesting to see which player will be the next dominant number one. Only seven players have managed to hold on to the reigns for more than 100 weeks and three of them did so for more than 300 weeks (Graf, Navratilova and Serena Williams).
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