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Champion's Alley: A series looking at the former champions at the WTA Finals. This week, Mark Hodgkinson focuses on 2005 champion Amelie Mauresmo.

Amelie Mauresmo's victory at the 2005 season finale could be measured in US dollars (one million), but its greatest value was how it helped the Frenchwoman to reconsider her tennis and her ability to deal with self-doubt on court.

Yes, beating Mary Pierce in the tournament's first all-French final was a riposte to those who had suggested that she was too emotionally fragile to ever win of the sport's biggest prizes, but this was also about showing herself that she had the mental fortitude required. As Mauresmo served for the victory, she double-faulted to find herself at 0-40. But she didn't falter. Instead, she won the next five points. "You have moments when you really believe that this is going to happen, and you have some other moments when your mind is a little bit down, when you think to yourself, 'I'm never going to do it'," said Mauresmo, who had, of course, picked up on the suggestions that she was too brittle to win high-pressure matches. "You hear it. For a sensitive person, it gets to you at some point when you're always hearing the same things. The best answer I can give is on the court."

This was a career-changing victory for Mauresmo. "I really think that this is a huge step for me. I don't know where it's going to take me, but it's a step," Mauresmo said at the time. The next year, she made big steps, leaps even: she would win her first Grand Slam titles with success at the Australian Open and Wimbledon. Had she lost to Pierce in Los Angeles, it's doubtful whether she would have won in Melbourne and London, and also whether, after retiring as a player, she would have become Andy Murray's coach. "Winning the [WTA Finals] mattered quite a lot," Mauresmo once said. "I think I proved to myself that I was capable of beating the best players. Before that, I was probably wondering to myself whether I was able to do it, all those kinds of questions. The title came at the right time for me."


Mark Hodgkinson is the author of 'Game, Set and Match: Secret Weapons of the World's Top Tennis Players' (Bloomsbury, May 2015).