MONTRÉAL, Canada - Eight weeks after playing a thrilling final in Paris, top seed Simona Halep and Sloane Stephens are still living la vie en rose, only this time the pair find themselves across the Atlantic in Québec, contesting for the Coupe Rogers crown on Sunday.
"It's always nice to play here, as I always say, and I feel it," Halep said after beating Ashleigh Barty, 6-4, 6-1 in the first semifinal. "It is probably going to be a similar match to the 2016 final if Stephens wins.
"I just want to give my best tomorrow and to enjoy the final because it's a great thing after a long break to play a final at a big tournament."
Champion two years ago over Madison Keys, Halep rides a nine-match Montréal winning streak into tomorrow's final - and isn't too shabby in Toronto, where she finished runner-up in 2015 and reached the semis last summer.
This week's run came together in no time at all after a rain-impacted schedule forced her to earn all four wins in under 48 hours. After a three-hour epic against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Halep halted Venus Williams, Caroline Garcia, and needed 70 minutes to dismiss the young Aussie on Saturday.
"I think you saw that I had no problems, but I did have some problems," she laughed. "I was very sore when I woke up. During the match it was not easy to run so much. But, you know, I just tried to focus on how I have to play, and tried to make it a little bit easier, which I did in the end."
Halep was particularly effective off the backhand side, teeing off on Barty's typically strong slice throughout the match to rack up 12 winners to just 15 unforced errors. The Romanian will have to be similarly solid in the final to extend her 5-0 head-to-head against Stephens.
"I will rest. I will go and just stay in the bed, eat everything. In the last few days I didn't eat much. I will watch maybe a movie. I will stay on Instagram, as usual. Just chilling, nothing special."
Stephens put on a performance that needed no filter this evening to dethrone defending champion Elina Svitolina and reach her first Premier 5 final. In a match-up of similar styles, the American used her superior firepower to gain the upper hand against the Ukrainian, winning most of the match's most crucial points to advance in about an hour and a half.
"Once I get on a good run at a tournament, I'm pretty consistent, pretty solid," she said after the 6-3, 6-3 win. "I just try to keep playing, keep competing, fight hard. Once you get to this point, the quarters, semis, finals of a tournament, everyone is good. You just have to compete hard, try to stay calm, and play your game as best you can."
The reigning US Open champion has proven remarkably consistent in the latter stages of tournaments, winning four straight semifinal matches dating back to her maiden major title run in Flushing Meadows. Early losses have come in between, but the highs have only gotten higher in 2018 with a Miami Open victory and that runner-up finish at Roland Garros.
"Babe, if I knew the answer to that, I would do it every week," she joked when asked what works well when she's at her best. "I haven't quite figured that out. Overall I'm playing good. Good weather, good conditions, good court. We're in North America. Food is good. Just pretty consistent overall.
"I can't put my finger on one thing to say that's the reason why I'm playing well. Just kind of good weeks come and good weeks go. So I don't know. I wish I knew the answer."
One thing she feels she has just about figured out is how to beat Halep, coming within two games of doing so in Paris after leading the 26-year-old by a set and a break before bowing out, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1.
"We played a good match. I played very well for a set and a half. Hopefully tomorrow I'll play very well for two sets, and just try to play as well as I can. Obviously I'm playing good tennis. She's playing good tennis. You work very hard to get here to this point, so just going to about competing really hard tomorrow and give it my all. Whatever happens happens.
"You have to respect the player. She is the No.1 player in the world. On paper, I'm the No.3 player in the world, so I'm not supposed to beat her. We play sports, so anything can happen. Obviously I would love to win. That's a part of being competitive."
Stephens discussed an adjustment period that a player needs after winning a Grand Slam title. Relatively speaking, neither needed too much time to resume playing on the game's biggest stages, something Halep attributes to the post-major-winning mindset.
"The emotions are better. I can control them easier. Of course, my nerves are in my stomach before every match, but now I enjoy more. I'm not putting pressure on myself that I have to win the match. I just go on court and I try to focus on my game.
"In the last few matches, I've done this thing, and it was much better. I feel tired physically, but mentally I'm okay. I feel fresh. It doesn't look like I had so many matches in a row in a short time. I feel very good I think because I can control my emotions better now."