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By Lauren Lynch Photo Credit: Tony Chang/ Chang Photography, bmattek.com
(March 1, 2011) There has been a lot of discussion and worry about the future of American tennis as both Andy Roddick and the Williams sisters are getting older. However, there is an American on the rise up for the challenge of making an impact on WTA singles and doubles. Fun fashioned and talented Bethanie Mattek-Sands started the 2011 tennis season with a bang and looks to make an impact on and off the court. She caught Tennis Now up on the ins and out of her tennis life in an exclusive interview on her tennis game to her causes to her fashion with a consistent attitude of living for the day to drive a personal best.
She is currently the World No. 44 and here career high is 37 in the world in singles and 12 in doubles. She discussed her goals in 2011 saying, "On paper, obviously, the next goal would be top 32, there-in you get seeded at the slams so I think if I had to pick one that would be my next goal but you can't really focus on goals like that truly because you don't really have that much control over that. I do have control of working on my game and playing well and being ready for all my matches. So you know I think the more important goals have to do with my game plan, my strategy, my fitness, and recovery."
"I was able to get a trophy there in doubles and do well in singles, so I'm pretty happy with it," she commented after she reached her won her first doubles title in Paris at the Open GDF Suez with fellow American Meghann Staughnessy playing against Russian duo Vera Dushevina and Ekaterina Makarova in two sets 6-4, 6-2. In the same tournament, she made it to the singles semifinals beating Carla Suarez Navarro and Andrea Petkovic to fall to the fourth seed Petra Kvitova, who later went on to beat Kim Clijsters for the title.
At the 2011 Hopman Cup, the US won a sixth title 2-1 against Belgium but has not won since 2008. For a pleasant surprise, Mattek-Sands teamed up with America's baby-faced-giant John Isner for mixed doubles unseeded to defeat Ruben Bemelmans and Justine Henin 6-1, 6-3. The two made an excellent pair and Tennis Now wanted to know if we would see another team up in the upcoming slams. Bethanie answered, "I'm not sure. It's tough because I have played a lot of matches this year so far. And as fun as mixed is, it's tough because I’m playing singles, doubles, and mixed. You don't get a lot of down time to recover so mixed I kind of leave until the last minute to see how I'm feeling."
Bethanie has been a key player for the United States' Fed Cup team that made it to the finals in 2010 and lost to Italy. Despite not have the Williams' sisters on the team, the US is currently third in the rankings behind Italy and Russia with 17002.5 points after losing to Belgium in the first round. Bethanie has won five of her eleven rubbers and her wins against Russia and France added to the team's success last year.
She spilled some of her thoughts on why the Fed Cup team has been so successful, "Team USA has done pretty good the last few years without the Williams. We're a good team, we get along great, and that is one of the biggest reasons we do well. You know, Fed Cup is way different than any other tour event of the season so it has a lot to do with team mates, pumping each other up, and getting to play well as a team."
Seeing the positive side of having Serena Williams sidelined at the moment and also replacing her in the Hopman Cup, she said, "She is a great player but she is one player on the WTA tour. Obviously Kim has won the slam this year so far, Caroline is no. 1, and I think there is a lot of depth in women's tennis. I think that's great for tennis. There's anyone from 1 to 50 to 80. I mean everyone is playing pretty good. There's been a lot of upsets and I think that's what makes tennis good."
"I've felt the healthiest I have in a long time. That's most important to me," said B-Mattek, who has suffered from a hip injury that caused her to pull out of the 2009 Australian Open and has said in the past that over-training/practicing is the cause for many injuries of all the players on the tour. Commenting on dealing with her injury, she added, "It always bothers you I think. Every single player playing has something that they could legitimately withdraw from a match from. Everyone is dealing with pain, dealing with injuries whether they're old or new so that's what just happens when you are a professional athlete."
More than a training concentration, she emphasized that "Right now, it is recovery."
Like Flavia Pennetta, she is a unique player in that she concentrates on both her singles and doubles games which can be tough for any athlete. While talking with her, I got the impression of an unique, easygoing attitude... and that was her exact approach to the difficult game balance. She said, "It's different but it isn't. You go out there and I have my things I work on- strategy for doubles and strategy for singles. I've done both for a long so you go over your game plan for each match and you know who you are playing and you go from there. Mentally preparing for it I don't think it's that much different. It's a competitive match that I want to win so that's pretty much it."
The tournament is coming soon and officially beginning on March 9 for the ladies. Mattek-Sands has made it to the second round for the fourth time in six appearances at the BNP Paribas Open.
"Indian Wells is one of my favorites. It's nice because it's close to my home town in Phoenix so we'll just drive over there. I have always had a good time in Palm Springs. I feel comfortable there. They have a great set-up there. It's obviously the second biggest stadium in the world. It's a pretty cool place to play in especially night matches. For me, being in the US is great- it cuts down travel time and is a lot easier," Bethany talked about the tournament. "I like Palm Springs, I like the area. I have good restaurants there, I have shopping, and that's what makes it fun for me on top of the tennis."
As a well-known animal lover, Bethanie is excited that she will be able to drive to the tournament with her husband, Justin Sands, and dog, Ruger, from her home in Phoenix, Arizona. After hearing her dog's deep bark in the background she hushed him and said, "But that's another good thing about Indian Wells, we're going to drive over so we are bringing him over. He'll get to hang out a little bit. He's our baby."
Some players complain about playing in the mountainous desert because of the way the ball bounces. Mattek-Sands gives her input, "There are differences but the same could be said about playing in Dubai, in Bogota, or a place high in altitude. I think every tournament has their own things. Indian Wells can get pretty windy every once in a while. I remember the finals a couple of years ago it had some of the highest winds ever so it's just stuff players learn to deal with."
Bethanie recently gave donations to flood victims. After arriving in Australia, record breaking floods in Brisbane and soon after there was flooding closer to home in Memphis, Tennessee. She said the reason she got involved was because, "It spoke to my heart, in Memphis I was in Rome and I saw everything on tv going on and I felt an urge to help. I was a similar thing in Australia. These people basically lost everything. In Memphis, not a lot of people had flood insurance because it just doesn't happen that often. People lost close possessions, irreplaceable things, and everything. For me, I'm lucky to be doing what I'm doing. I'm lucky to be traveling the world and seeing different places so whatever I can do to help I want to try and do. When I was in Australia, all of those things happened being down there and I already had such a great time in Australia. They have always treated me well down there and again people where stripped down to their bare bones in losing everything. Whatever support I can give and whatever media attention I can bring to it is probably even more important than the donations. I want to do what I can to help."
BMattek also say that she hopes to eventually start a foundation so she can continue to help out where she can. She said, "It's something I want to do. I'm in the process of creating a foundation for myself. In the meantime, it's just about helping others whether it's international borders or within the US. There's so many people who need help and I want to do what I can."
She has a fun and interactive website that is soon to be updated. You can learn more about her and her causes. Tennis Now voted her website as the top tennis player's website and worth a view.
Saving the best for last: The Fashion
Known for her unique taste in fashion and tattoos, she has dared to deviate from the norm in her tennis attire. She gave us a little sneak peak of what to expect at the upcoming tournament typical of her 'fly by the seat of her pant' approach, "Well this year so far I have been wearing Under Armour, I have for the last couple of years. They have actually done a great job with their women's line. They come out with new stuff every day and it's funny because I'll randomly get new stuff from them week to week so I, sometimes, won't know what I'll be wearing in the next week. But you will definitely see my high socks, some different colors, and I have been wearing Under Armour basketball shoes the last couple of tournaments- so they will be in Indian Wells."
I wanted to learn more about the high socks' beginnings because she has basically made them apart her signature look. She confessed, "I actually wear the high socks for a reason, I wear compression underneath. It started out more as just fun and something funky and different. It was funny because in Paris, Yanina Wickmayer actually had hurt her leg- in Belgium she had played Fed Cup and I guess a wall had fallen on her leg and it was pretty scraped up and swollen. So anyway, she texted me and asked to borrow my socks. So actually in the tournament in Paris it was funny seeing another player wearing my high socks on TV but she wore them not really out of choice but she is probably the only one on tour so far."
I wanted to see if Bethanie Mattek-Sands has done the same thing for high socks as Bjorn Borg did for the iconic headband or Rafael Nadal did for crab-digger shorts. I reminded her that recently Mardy Fish gave up his short socks for some high socks somewhat grudgingly for the compression aspect. She gave me some instances in which her fashion statement spread:
"Actually I had Jelena Jankovic wearing high socks. I played doubles with her a few years ago in San Diego and we wore matching outfits. She was wearing the high socks so it was actually pretty funny- she was a good sport. I told her that if we ever play doubles again that she would have to wear the high socks again- She said 'okay'"
"Me and my doubles partner Meghann actually have a thing that if we are in the finals- she wears the high socks as well and actually the only tournament we didn't do it at was Paris so I don't know if it will be our tradition or not but she's worn them as well."
Bethanie certainly sports a look all her own and has plans on signature-izing the look with her own line like Maria Sharapova, Venus Williams, and several other players have done. She spoke of her plans, "That's definitely something that I want to do. My relationship with Under Armour is kind of new so I'm still working up to that. They really just started focusing on their women's line especially the tennis line and don't have that much stuff out, but that's something I eventually want to get to- is having a line with them."
Mattek-Sands has a total of two tattoos that are easily seen and worn proudly by her on court.
"Actually the one on my right arm is unfinished. I still got to go in and finish it up but I've been procrastinating because the one on my bicep is a little sore. I need a little bit of time and time is something you don't get a lot of on the WTA tour schedule. For sure before the US Open I'll have my right arm finished up. I actually have plenty ideas for other ones as well. I got to at least finish one," She told us of her body art ambitions.
After asking her if there is a line she will not cross she said (ending with my favorite line that I got the impression embodied her), "I don't have a long term vision. I don't think I'll get anything on my neck and I'm pretty sure I won't get anything on my hands or anything. Granted, I have my husband's name on my left finger because I don't wear a wedding ring when I play so we got our names on the inside of our fingers. I don't know maybe I will find something I like- I'm pretty spontaneous- I'm not really a planner."
Bethanie Mattek-Sands lives for the moment and does not restrict herself in any aspect as far as the game, drive, causes, look, and family is concerned. After asking if she planned on having a family, she simply laughed and said, "We will see how it goes."