MONTRÉAL, Canada - Simona Halep and Sloane Stephens broke onto the WTA tour together in 2013 with stellar results, and have come together to play two of the best finals of 2018, most recently at Sunday's Coupe Rogers, where the World No.1 narrowly edged the US Open champion in a rematch of last month's French Open final.
"Both matches were crazy good," Halep said after the 7-6(6), 3-6, 6-4 victory. "She makes me play better and better every time we meet each other. That's a great thing for me.
"I feel like she improved in her mentality. She's a strong player. I think she's a complex player. She has everything."
Stephens was equally ebulliant in her praise during the trophy ceremony of what was her first Premier 5 final.
"Even though I lost today, I literally left everything on the court," she said. "Obviously, I'm sad I lost, but losing to the No.1 player isn't too bad.
"Every time I play her, she makes me a better player, she makes me raise my level. Sometimes you gotta get your butt kicked the hard way, and that's ok."
Halep struggled with physical issues throughout the match, receiving treatment for a left toe blister and later admitted to an ab problem that hampered her on serve.
"At 5-4, I said that I have to serve bigger," Halep said. "During the match, it was a little bit softer. I had a little bit of pain, and it was tough to hit constant. In the last game I just wanted to hit it, so I was lucky to hit an ace at the match point."
The title in Montréal is her third of the season, earning her a 42nd match win in what was only her second tournament appearance since capturing her first Grand Slam title in Paris.
"I really started to enjoy more the time on court. I'm more relaxed. I'm not thinking about the result any more. Maybe that's why I'm able to win matches.
"I had a long break after French Open. In Wimbledon I was a little bit down, and I didn't really want to be on court after that big success. I lost from the match point, so it was tough after that tournament.
"Then I forgot everything. I didn't touch the racquet for almost three weeks. I came here refreshed and with a desire to play official matches again, which was good."
While she was momentarily fatigued, Halep clarified that she hasn't lost any of her hunger for more major trimphs.
"I didn't win, like, 20 Grand Slams to lose the motivation. I won only one. I still have the motivation to be better and to win more, if that's possible. [At Wimbledon], it was not a problem of motivation in my case, just that I was too happy. I was waiting for that moment for so many years. I had so many chances, three finals before. I really wanted it.
"When finally happened, I was a little bit too happy and too relaxed. I had to work a little bit to come back, to start with the gym first, then on court. It was not that difficult for me. I hope I can keep it like this."
As for Stephens, the new World No.3 can't be too disappointed in defeat. A year ago, the American was playing Toronto ranked No.934 in the world, and another runner-up finish to the world's top ranked player kicks off her US Open title defense in encouraging fashion.
"I thought I played well. I thought she played well. In a final, you hope for matches like that, super competitive, high energy.
"I think I got better today. I got better than the last final we played. Yeah, it's disappointing, but I think this will help me moving forward, getting ready to go into Cincy and the US Open. Just going to kind of take it all in, realize I did a good job this week, and I can be proud of myself for that."
Halep will also head next to the Western & Southern Open, where she reached the final in 2017, but not before trying some poutine.
"My physio tried it last night. He told me it's really good. I have to try. Tonight I will. I promise!"