Reaching world number one is a blessing if your name is Serena Williams, Steffi Graf, Martina Navratilova or Maria Sharapova, all multiple Grand Slam winners.
However, if you happen to be Caroline Wozniacki, Dinara Safina or Jelena Jankovic, then reaching the summit of the women’s game brings nothing but vertigo.
Now it’s Karolina Pliskova who is fighting to avoid being drummed into a club of players where membership is a curse — the “Slamless wonders.”
Pliskova, whose run to the US Open final last year remains her only appearance in a Grand Slam championship match, became world number one in July.
Three more wins in New York will allow her to avoid the fate of Wozniacki, Safina and Jankovic — who all served time at the top despite never winning a major when occupying such lofty heights.
It was a burden for Russia’s Safina, whose brother Marat was a men’s number one but who backed up his position with two Slams.
Safina reached world number one in April 2009. She was runner-up at the 2008 Australian and French Opens and again at Roland Garros in 2009.
Later that summer, Safina was blown off court by Venus Williams in the semi-finals at Wimbledon.
At the time, Serena was world number two, despite already having won 10 majors, which was soon to become 11 just days later at the All England Club.
Asked to reflect on Safina’s top ranking, Serena was unable to contain herself.
“I would go crazy just thinking about it. I think anyone really could. That’s just shocking,” said the American.
“But whatever. It is what it is. I’d rather definitely be number two and hold three Grand Slams in the past year than be number one and not have any.”
– Target on her back –
Safina spent 26 weeks at number one but retired in 2014 at age 27 having hardly played at all for the previous three seasons due to back trouble.
“Sometimes people say I am number one but I don’t have a Grand Slam. But I’m always there,” said the Russian at the time of her elevation.
“I’m sure one day I will get the Grand Slam and nobody can talk anymore that I’m number one without one.”
It wasn’t to be as Safina quit without a Slam and with just 12 tour titles.
Wozniacki, the current world number five, took the top spot in October 2010 and finished that season as well as 2011 as the year-end world number one.
The Dane’s best run at a major is two runners-up spots at the US Open in 2009 and 2014.
Her appearance in New York this year ended in a second-round loss to Ekaterina Makarova.
She then made headlines for blasting the decision to allow Sharapova to play all of her matches on the showpiece Arthur Ashe Stadium after serving a doping ban.
Wozniacki was widely lambasted for coming over as bitter with many pointing out that had she been a five-time major winner like the Russian, she, too, may have been granted top billing.
“Everyone wants to be number one,” said Wozniacki this year in Miami.
“But when you’re number one, you have a target on your back and you’re a favorite every time you play.”
Wozniacki, who came into this year’s US Open with an outside chance of becoming number one again, has 25 titles and at 27 years of age, she is still a contender.
Jankovic is almost the forgotten world number one.
The Serb, now 32, is currently 68 in the world. But she made top spot in August 2008, ending the year also in pole position.
Jankovic’s runner-up spot at the 2008 US Open is her best performance at the Slams.
Since then, she has played 32 majors, getting past the fourth round just twice.
Jankovic, winner of 15 tour titles, always insisted that she wasn’t concerned about the criticism tossed at her world number one status.
“I’m the number one player in the world and I believe I’m the best one,” she said. “Serena can feel the same. Everybody has their own confidence and the belief in themselves.”