Two years ago, a chilling sound jarred Wimbledon’s hallowed grounds: a players’s voice crying for help.
The sound came from Court 17, where fans were engrossed in a women’s second-round match. Bethanie Mattek-Sands, who had received a wild card into the event, and Sorana Cirstea had just begun playing a third set. What happened next was one of the most horrific scenes our sport has ever seen. When Mattek-Sands approached the net, she slipped and took a scary fall. Clutching her knee, she repeatedly screamed, “Help me, please! Help me!”
Soon, the screams turned into heavy sobs.
Pinned to the ground by the injury—a ruptured patella tendon and dislocated kneecap—her horror-stricken opponent rushed to the other side of the net. A sobbing Lucie Safarova, who had heard about the gruesome injury on TV, ran to Court 17 to check on her distressed good friend and doubles partner. The then-top-seeded tandem, known by their fans as “Team Bucie,” was bidding for a non-calendar Slam, having won three consecutive majors—the 2016 US Open, 2017 Australian Open and the French Open.
“I just remember going up to the net and hearing a loud pop,” Mattek-Sands reflected on the injury. “I felt like my leg couldn’t support me. Then I looked at it and it didn’t even make sense. I thought I could adjust it and put it back in place, but I couldn’t. That’s when I screamed, ‘Help me.’”
Mattek-Sands returned to the court in 2018, but experienced another knee-induced absence earlier this year. Last week in Eastbourne was her first tournament since the Australian Open—and her first play on grass since the injury at Wimbledon two years ago.
In an interview with Tennis Channel’s global correspondent Prakash Amritraj, which you can watch above, Mattek-Sands admits that playing on grass again makes her a little nervous.
“It was a little rainy today, so I…you know before the match I was just like I kind of talked to my team,” said Mattek Sands, who finished runner-up in doubles with Kirsten Flipkens. “I was just… I’m not gonna mess around if there’s some drips of water out there. But for the most part I’ve been practicing on grass at home for the last month, so I feel solid on the court right there.”
Since Safarova hung up her racquet in June, the doubles stalwart is now tasked with finding players she will partner with the rest of the season. At Wimbledon, she'll play with Danielle Collins; in San Jose, she'll play with Zheng Saisai.
Does Mattek-Sands find it challenging playing with different partners?
“I’m enjoying it right now. I’m playing with people that I know well. Playing with girls that I’m friends with. I keep it pretty relaxed out there. Most of the time we’re laughing on changeovers.”
While rehabbing her knee injury, the former doubles No. 1 took advantage of the downtime to rediscover her love of the sport, and to work on her other love: fashion. Since turning pro in 1999, she has always pushed the sport's sartiorial boundaries: among other outfits, she's sported a tennis ball jacket, a leopard print, a metallic dress, a straw hat, eye black—and, of course, her signature knee-high socks.
So it wasn't surprising that in November of 2018, Mattek-Sands announced her new partnership with tennis fashion brand Lucky in Love. She debuted the line, which is inspired by her bold tattoos and her fashion style, at this year's Australian Open.
I got 2 #MondayMotivation quotes for ya..”The secret to success is to be ready when your opportunity comes“ -Benjamin Disraeli ???????? BUT then this quote makes me think of something that Conor McGregor said.... check out my insta post for some more great motivation #ItsWorthTheClick pic.twitter.com/2OTuPFZ2om— Bethanie MattekSands (@matteksands) February 4, 2019
This week at Wimbledon, Mattek-Sands and American compatriot Collins fittingly won their first-rounder on the Fourth of July. She'll compete alongside Jamie Murray in the mixed doubles tournament.
"I'm trying out a few partners," she says with a smile. "They're all friends of mine though. That's what keeps it consistent."