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November 8, 9, 10, 2005

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2005 WTA Tour Championships Part 1 of 3
Los Angeles, California - November 8, 9, 10, 2005
Photos by Cliff Kurtzman


All Tennis Server photography is copyrighted by the photographer and/or the Tennis Server, and all rights are reserved. You may not copy these images without permission. While you are welcome to create hyperlinks to Tennis Server web pages, you may not embed these images into other web pages or blogs without permission. To request permission, please use this contact form. Please be sure to clearly indicate exactly which photograph(s) you are requesting permission to use, as terms and conditions will vary depending on the photographer and the photograph.


Maria Sharapova

FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT!

That's what Maria Sharapova shouted out to herself and the crowd in the final moments of a tough match with Lindsay Davenport, as she attempted to close out a fantastic contest. Maria Sharapova used extensive "self-talk" to keep mentally focused during her round robin match against Lindsay Davenport

As we will discuss further in this report, Maria Sharapova is a mentally tough player, and her contest with Lindsay was among the highlights of the action here in Los Angeles at the WTA Championships. Thanks to sponsorship from Dr. Robert Heller's TennisMind Mental Toughness Software and from Fieldtown Software, we are pleased to bring you this report, the first in our series from the WTA Championships, along with a special Mental Toughness tip from Dr. Heller himself.

Sharapova photo by Pablo Sanfrancisco.


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As the two-year run of the Masters Cup ended in Houston last November, there was a sense of loss for so many Houston fans that had embraced the opportunity to watch the top players in the world battle it out at the season ending finale. As the Masters Cup flag was passed to the Shanghai delegation, there was sadness in the moment coupled with a feeling of pride in the accomplishment in having hosted an event that was truly special and memorable.

Handing of the Masters Cup flag over to the Shanghai delegation
Handing the Masters Cup flag over the the Shanghai delegation was probably Jim McIngvale's (in light gray sweatshirt) most difficult task at the 2004 Masters Cup.

As the four-year run for the WTA Championships comes to an end this week in Los Angeles, there is no such sense of loss, only a sense that this event has failed and that next year in Madrid will be a new beginning and a chance for a better event. Asked about the situation in a post-match press conference, Lindsay Davenport noted, "You know, I'm not really sure what the answer is to that because obviously Southern California and Los Angeles in particular is a huge tennis town. But I do believe it is time to change. We have had four years here. I think Madrid has proven with their Masters series event there with the men they held a great event. They are very excited about having us there. So I don't know why it didn't work out here. But hopefully Madrid is a fantastic showcase for us."

In stark contract to the Masters Cup event in Houston, the event in Los Angeles seems sterile and utterly lacking in soul. The huge Staples Center makes an outstanding basketball court for the Lakers, but for a tennis match, the rubbery surface is extremely fast, the bright spotlights are blinding, the court area is too narrow in width, and the lack of a backdrop around the court makes it hard to see the ball. Last year, a big marketing push in Los Angeles featuring Sharapova and Serena Williams was at least moderately successful at driving fans into the stadium. This year Sharapova seems to be the lone player drawing in any significant fan base, there is no marketing push for the event, and attendance is dismal, with only 5,107 attending on Tuesday, and 3,911 at the Sharapova-less Wednesday sessions. At this rate, the press will outnumber the fans by the time we reach the finals on Sunday.

Staples Center
Mary Pierce and Elena Dementieva played to a largely empty Staples Center on Wednesday.

The players seem fairly consistent in their opinion of the event... not only noting the fastness of the surface and the difficulty in seeing the ball, but also complaining that the matches, which start at 6:00 pm and continue until around midnight, are unusually late, particularly for jet-lagged players normally based in Europe. And nearly without exception, the players complain about being tired and burnt out due to an overly lengthy season, and are very much looking forward to brief vacations over the next couple of weeks before they begin their training anew in preparation for the Australian Open.

After the completion of three days of play in Los Angeles, the field has narrowed and the semifinalists are now determined, with Mary Pierce, Maria Sharapova, Lindsay Davenport, and Amelie Mauresmo earning certain slots in the semifinals on Saturday regardless of the outcome of tonight's matches. The big surprise here has been Kim Clijsters's losses to both Pierce and Mauresmo. Pierce has played exceedingly strong tennis and took advantage of Clijsters fatigue and jet lag. Clijsters's match with Mauresmo was quite close, with Amelie nearly finding a way to choke it away at the end but saved by a service return error by Clijsters at match point. Because of these losses, Kim has failed to qualify for the semifinals and Lindsay Davenport has now clinched the year end number one ranking for the second year in a row.


What can the pros teach us about "Mental Toughness?"
by Dr. Robert Heller

The answer may surprise you. As you watch them play, you will observe both "mental giants" and "mental midgets." While pros spend thousands of hours working on their strokes, physical conditioning, strategy and the like, relatively few work much on "mental conditioning." You may be just as likely to find mentally tough players at the local park tournaments as on the professional tour. The least mentally fit players may not be able to compensate with other skills to survive for long in the pros. The most talented may do well in spite of this limitation in their game but they seldom reach their full potential.

Among the well known women, Jennifer Caprietti gets my vote for being among the mentally weakest of the well known women players on the tour. In one match, some months back, following a disagreement on a call, she proceeded to lose 12 of the next 13 points and lost game, set and match!

I would rank Maria Sharapova as among the mentally toughest on the women's tour. She has that competitive "fire in the belly," uses her time between points and at the changeovers to recover very effectively and makes good use of slow, deep breathing to calm down and prevent her from getting overly anxious or excited. Although it's obvious she hates losing, she never appears afraid to go for her shots and seems to accept occasional loses as "coming with the territory."

Dr. Robert Heller is a sports psychology consultant based in Boca Raton, Florida and author of TENNISMIND and MANAGING YOUR STRESS.

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Are you recovering quickly from unforced errors to win the next point? How good are you at maintaining your concentration and focus throughout the match? With Dr. Robert Heller's TennisMind Mental Toughness Software, you'll take control of your tennis game. This unique Software contains 10 eight-minute mental/emotional training sessions. Just choose one of the sessions and train for 8 minutes and you're done. With sessions like, "Coping with Choking", "Maintaining Focus and Concentration", and 8 others, you'll be beating players you never thought you could! Play Mentally Tough Tennis. See why TennisMind Software is creating a buzz in the tennis world:

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Here are the results and photographs of those matches completed through November 10, the third day of the round robin competition. The Petrova v. Schnyder and Sharapova v. Davenport photos in this report are by Pablo Sanfrancisco, while the rest of the photos are by Cliff Kurtzman.

Tuesday, November 8, 2005

(5) Mary Pierce (FRA) d. (2) Kim Clijsters (BEL) 61 46 76(2)

Tennis - Kim Clijsters

Tennis - Kim Clijsters

Tennis - Mary Pierce

Tennis - Mary Pierce

Tennis - Mary Pierce Tennis - Kim Clijsters

Tennis - Kim Clijsters

Tennis - Kim Clijsters

Tennis - Kim Clijsters

Tennis - Kim Clijsters

Tennis - Kim Clijsters

Tennis - Mary Pierce

Tennis - Mary Pierce

(3) Maria Sharapova (RUS) d. (6) Patty Schnyder (SUI) 61 36 63

Tennis - Maria Sharapova

Tennis - Patty Schnyder

Tennis - Patty Schnyder

Tennis - Maria Sharapova

Tennis - Maria Sharapova

Tennis - Patty Schnyder

Tennis - Maria Sharapova

Tennis - Maria Sharapova

Tennis - Maria Sharapova

(1) Lindsay Davenport (USA) d. (7) Nadia Petrova (RUS) 62 76(1)

Tennis - Nadia Petrova

Tennis - Nadia Petrova

Tennis - Lindsay Davenport

Tennis - Lindsay Davenport

Wednesday, November 9, 2005

(5) Mary Pierce (FRA) d. (8) Elena Dementieva (RUS) 62 63

Tennis - Elena Dementieva

Tennis - Elena Dementieva

Tennis - Mary Pierce

(1) Lindsay Davenport (USA) d. (6) Patty Schnyder (SUI) 63 75

Tennis - Patty Schnyder

Tennis - Lindsay Davenport

(4) Amelie Mauresmo (FRA) d. (2) Kim Clijsters (BEL) 63 76(4)

Tennis - Amelie Mauresmo

Tennis - Amelie Mauresmo

Tennis - Kim Clijsters

Tennis - Amelie Mauresmo - Kim Clijsters

Tennis - Amelie Mauresmo

Thursday, November 10, 2005

(6) Patty Schnyder (SUI) d. (7) Nadia Petrova (RUS) 60 57 64

Tennis - Patty Schnyder

Tennis - Nadia Petrova

Tennis - Patty Schnyder

Tennis - Patty Schnyder

Tennis - Nadia Petrova

Tennis - Patty Schnyder

(3) Maria Sharapova (RUS) d. (1) Lindsay Davenport (USA) 63 57 64

Tennis - Maria Sharapova

Tennis - Lindsay Davenport

Tennis - Lindsay Davenport

Tennis - Lindsay Davenport

Tennis - Lindsay Davenport

Tennis - Maria Sharapova

Tennis - Maria Sharapova

Tennis - Lindsay Davenport

Tennis - Lindsay Davenport

Tennis - Maria Sharapova

(4) Amelie Mauresmo (FRA) d. (8) Elena Dementieva (RUS) 62 63

Tennis - Amelie Mauresmo - Elena Dementieva

Tennis - Amelie Mauresmo

Tennis - Amelie Mauresmo - Elena Dementieva

To Part 2: November 11 Round Robin and November 12 Singles Semi-Finals

To Part 3: November 13 Singles Finals and November 12-13 Doubles Semi-Finals and Finals

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