ST PETERSBURG, FL, USA - WTA CEO and Chairman Steve Simon has praised Simona Halep as "exemplary" after she rose to the top of the rankings on Monday.

The Romanian claimed the top spot from Spain’s Garbiñe Muguruza, who spent four consecutive weeks there after the US Open. 

“Achieving the WTA World No.1 ranking shows incredible dedication and commitment, and I would like to commend Simona on this accomplishment,” said Simon. “Simona is an exemplary athlete on and off the court and with this tremendous season, deserves this fantastic moment in her career.”

By reaching her 27th career final at the China Open last Sunday, the 26-year-old becomes the first Romanian to achieve this historic milestone since the computer rankings were introduced in 1975, and is the 25th woman overall to hold the No.1 ranking. 

This achievement is the latest accolade in a trophy-laden career, highlighted by three career WTA Premier Mandatory titles (2016 and 2017 Mutua Madrid Open and 2015 BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells) among her 15 career WTA singles titles. Halep has won at least one title each year for five consecutive years.

“It was the toughest year but also the best year,” Halep said about her rise up the rankings. “At the beginning, it was very tough. I was injured and I didn't believe I would even be in Singapore. So being there now [qualifying] and being No.1, it's great. I can forget everything else now and enjoy this moment.”

Simona Halep (Getty)

Halep holds a 44-15 win-loss record this year, reaching three consecutive finals during the European clay swing including a title win at the Mutua Madrid Open, and runner-up at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia (Rome) and Roland Garros.

In addition, Halep was runner-up at the Western & Southern Open (Cincinnati) and at last week’s China Open (Beijing). She will be presented with the WTA World No.1 Trophy, the focal point of which is a silver “star-map” tennis ball that represents the tennis universe. All World No.1s, past and present, are depicted by a diamond in the sky, which represents each champion’s mark on the sport.

Halep secured her fourth consecutive qualification at the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global earlier this season. The Top 8 singles players and doubles teams will compete at the WTA Finals for $7 million in prize money.