The chords emanating from the machine, which was helping with the inflammation on her injured shoulder as she slept, snaked around each other and in and out of the covers. The same kind of movement she is known to do on the tennis court.
Profile: Bethanie Mattek-Sands
But Bethanie Mattek-Sands hasn't been able to do that in a competitive match for four months. The torn rotator cuff in her right shoulder wouldn't allow it.
Forget about smashing serves and overheads, she couldn't even splash water on her face.
But after months of recovery and grueling, tear-inducing rehabilitation sessions, Mattek-Sands, a Valley resident and at one-time the highest ranked American in the WTA Tour this year, feels as healthy as she's been since June. She will play at the Hyundai Hopman Cup in Perth, Australia in January, her first competitive match since she lost in the first round of the US Open with the injured shoulder in August.
"I'm excited to start playing; it's one thing to keep practicing but as much as I love tennis, I love competition," said Mattek-Sands on a recent morning before she begins practicing at the main tennis court at the Scottsdale Fairmont Princess. "I practice to play matches. I don't just practice to practice. Sometimes I'm like 'OK, I'm done with practicing. Let's put something on the line here.'"
Mattek-Sands will get her wish when she plays mixed-doubles with Mardy Fish to represent Team USA at the Hopman Cup. The duo's first match is on January 2 against Denmark, which consists of Frederik Nielsen and Caroline Wozniacki, the No. 1-ranked woman in the world. They will then play the Czech Republic, which sports Petra Kvitova, the world's No. 2.
"We'll know for sure exactly where we stand," said Mattek-Sands' coach Adam Altschuler. "But from what I see, I think she's completely healthy at this point. There isn't any drills to do at any speed or shots we have to hit and watch for. It's a huge difference from where we were five weeks ago. Tennis-wise, she's ready to go."
The injury was a frustrating way to end Mattek-Sands' 2011 season, which was the best of her mostly injury-plagued 13 professional years. She was No. 30 in the world in June and was seeded for the first time at Wimbledon. But she injured her shoulder at a tournament just before the iconic Grand Slam and lost in the first round while playing with the injury.
She thought about sitting the rest of the year but couldn't stay away from the US Open. So for four weeks, she spent up to eight hours a day rehabbing the shoulder to get ready. It was all for naught. Her shoulder was still hurting and she again lost in the first round.
"If it wasn't a Grand Slam, I wouldn't have played it," Mattek-Sands said. "But just being the competitive person that I am and the fact that I spent so much time (rehabbing), I had to."
So for the next few months, she took herself off the court and spent most of her time with Dr. Malcolm Conway in Wyoming, Pa., trainer Jay Schroeder in Phoenix and in bed hooked up to a machine.
Mattek-Sands, now ranked 55th, hopes she'll again play her way into a top 32 ranking in 2012. But she's not focused on the end results.
"It's more important to focus on strategy, fitness and recovery," Mattek-Sands said. "If i could get all of those together, I know I'll win."