The Rochester, Minnesota native turned pro in 1999, at the early age of 15. In 2008, Mattek-Sands hit her stride on tour, reaching a career-high in both singles (No. 38) and doubles (No. 24). Her big breakthrough came at the All England Club, where she defeated the 2007 Wimbledon runner-up Marion Bartoli in the fourth round, her first top-10 win of her career.
Mattek-Sands has won over 750 matches at the tour level (singles 363, doubles 388), winning nearly 60% of her contests. The five-time doubles grand slam champion and former number one doubles player in the world (currently 20th) discussed the craziness of the tour during the coronavirus crisis, how she met her husband, her clothing line, and much more.
Nate Walroth: How’s life in Phoenix?
Bethanie Mattek-Sands: It is 75 and sunny here. It’s amazing. I love Phoenix. Any time someone asks me about living in Arizona, I feel like I need to be a tourist guide. I’m always speaking of it highly. It’s an awesome place to live though. Justin (Bethanie’s husband) and I are really happy here.
NW: How did you meet you and Justin meet? Was it in Phoenix?
BMS: Justin had just got done playing college football and he was seeing a doctor named Dr. Conway, in Pennsylvania. And funny enough I had been introduced to Dr. Conway through Qadry Ismail (NFL tight end 1993-02’). He suggested to both of us that we go train in Arizona with Jay Schroeder. He just believed in his system and processes with athletes. Also, Justin was already spending his summers there.
And so Dr. Conway starts telling me about Justin and how we should connect there. Kinda workout together and what not. He was hyping him up big time, but he wasn’t wrong though (laughs).
NW: That’s awesome. Phoenix is a popular place during the spring time. Have you guys ever attended the spring training games?
BMS: I actually train with a lot of baseball players. Spring training is certainly a huge deal here. That’s all people talk about during the spring. It’s crazy. I’ve lived here twelve years and still haven’t made it to a spring training game. I was planning too (this year), but that’ll have to wait another year. I was actually looking forward to it.
NW: Your style has become such a big part of your brand and presence. What inspired you to take a stand with what you wear on tour and really be the creator behind it all?
BMS: Being around tennis this long I realized you don’t always get that behind the scenes access other sports offer. You don’t get that locker room access. I think our outfits give us a chance to show our personality. So, I really appreciate when players show their style. I like when they bring out their fashion on the court. I think it’s unique and interesting and that’s why I’ve done it and ran with it.
NW: Why do you think tennis has struggled to adapt or showcase that aspect of the sport?
BMS: There’s just some things tennis has done forever and it’s because like tennis is so attached to its history. As much as I think that’s important, it’s also important to kinda change with the times a little bit too. How do you attract new fans. How do you get causal sports fans interested in tennis? There are a lot of diehard tennis fans that will love it regardless what Roger is wearing or not wearing. It’s entertainment though. How can we bring that to the forefront? Obviously, without taking away from appreciating the skill and athleticism of these athletes. It’s worth going that route though think. Blending your history and changing with the times.
There’s plenty enough players that would look great in any of the brands lines you see on tour. It would look awesome if they each wore a different outfit. It would also look great for the brands. I feel they need to use these players as almost billboards for your products.
NW: How did you take it upon yourself to change that?
BMS: The way I went about it was I made my own clothing line (laughs). So, I stepped away from all that when I partnered up with Lucky in Love.
I remember the first time I met up with Brad Singer (Lucky in Love creator) and his team we clicked. He just knew and understood the edginess I wanted to bring to the tour.
NW: Do you think the players would’ve played a tournament (s) with no fans if it were an option?
BMS: The players would’ve played with no fans for sure. It wouldn’t have been the same, but under the circumstances I’m sure we would’ve figured it out. But it wasn’t an option for us.
NW: You’ve had great success as a doubles player on tour. What’s the most important thing about forming a good partnership/team? And what do you love about doubles?
BMS: I think having a close relationship with your partner off the court is very important. It makes the transition to the court much easier. A big part of doubles is communication and that’s why being friends with your partner helps.
The biggest difference (between singles & doubles) is you have a buddy out there. I love having someone to talk to and work a game plan with. It’s just a lot of fun.
NW: Yep, for sure. I’m a big fan of doubles. I imagine it can get a little tricky at times to stay close when you’re living across the country or globe from your partner. No?
BMS: Yes and no. For example, Lucie Safarova lived in the Czech Republic and I was in Arizona, but we were able to make our practice court time before tournaments count and had a lot of success together. Having an open line of communication is huge. And you can have that when you’re tight with someone.