Interview with Bethanie Mattek-Sands from Eastbourne 2019
Eric Han for Tennis Atlantic
I had the pleasure of talking to former world no.1 in doubles, five time Grand Slam doubles champion, and Olympic mixed doubles gold medalist, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, after her semifinals doubles victory with her partner Kirsten Flipkens. The video and the transcript of the interview is below.
Q: First tournament back since the Australian Open, and now you’re in final. Congratulations. How do you feel?
Bethanie Mattek-Sands: It feels really good. I mean, for me I’ve been enjoying each match. Having a surgery, going through the rehab. I think you learn to appreciate the moment a little bit. And I’ve been having a blast with Flipkens, it was a last minute partnership. And she’s a good a friend off the court. I mean, she won last week on grass, so I felt I picked up a partner that was on good momentum. The things she comes up with that net is super impressive, so I really enjoyed playing with Kirsten out there.
Q: What did you think of the match? When you were down 5-8 in the super tiebreak, what did you say to Kirsten or what did Kirsten say to you to keep motivating each other?
Bethanie Mattek-Sands: In all honesty, I’m going to be honest. On the 10 point tiebreakers, I lose track of score a lot. I’m relying on someone to tell me to I need to switch sides. It’s one thing to play the tiebreak to seven, but to play it to ten, I feel like it keeps going. So I’m like next point, alright next point, you’re serving, I’m serving, we’re returning, here’s the play.
So, I feel like, even though I wasn’t quite aware of the score, we had a good game plan. Flippers (Flipkens) is a positive person anyway, so I feel like we both have good energy out there and that’s kind of the key whether you’re up or down and its what win matches and we were able to close it out.
Q: You’ve played both singles and doubles in your career what would you say are the differences? What do you have to adjust when you have to play singles and doubles?
Bethanie Mattek-Sands: You definitely adjust your targets. I just think they are two different game plans. I mean, you do have some players that play singles and very good doubles players. Then you have some singles players, that don’t play a lot of doubles. I think there’s a big aspect of communication, a big aspect of a different strategy, and I don’t even like to kind of compare them. I feel when I’m getting ready for a doubles match, it’s a different strategy when I’m getting ready for singles. It’s still a little bit different, I think it’s fun to have your partner out there, someone to talk to. Singles, you’re out there by yourself and it’s a different game. And for right now, I’m playing doubles and mixed doubles at Wimbledon, double here. So I get to have someone to talk to, have my partner. So I’m just really enjoying it,
Q: Ash Barty, who you’ve played against in singles and doubles a few times. She won her maiden Grand Slam in Paris last month. Were you surprised that her first singles Grand Slam was on clay, rather than on Wimbledon as people thought that’s her preferred surface?
Bethanie Mattek-Sands: No, I don’t think so. I feel like she has actually won Rome doubles last year. And I think she won it again it this year. She’s an all court player, and I think right now if you have an all-court game, you can play on any surface. You can transition from clay, to hard, to grass. She mixes in that slice really well and comes to the net. And I feel like you can come to the net on all surfaces. And that’s going to be a good game plan. I don’t see her changing it up for grass. She’s an exciting player to watch, and I’ll be rooting for her.
Q: Speaking about Ash, she took time away from tennis to play cricket because she felt too much pressure, tension. Considering how long a tennis season is, nearly 11 months, do you think it is more beneficial for players to take mental health breaks?
Bethanie Mattek-Sands: You know what, I gotta give her a lot of credit for doing that. Because she came out of juniors, and she was a highly touted junior. I played her actually, one of her first tournaments, in Hobart I think a long time ago. And she was a great junior player. And for her to say, its too much pressure, I’m not enjoying it. Because Ash is one of these players, she really enjoys going out there, she plays smooth, she plays her game, she talks about playing her brand of tennis. And I really give her a lot of credit for taking that break. And I don’t think its the worst thing. For me, my breaks have come from injuries. I’ve been out for some months at times and it wasn’t necessarily my choice. I think it’s not only good for the body, but also for the mind, tennis is a game and it is a long season, so I think it’s important to kind of to take your breaks when you can and enjoy it. I pick and choose the tournaments I want to play, but I give myself weeks off and days off. After a long swing of tournaments, I’ll take a couple of days to enjoy somewhere around the world. Otherwise, it’s just playing, trains, automobiles, courts, practice, and it’s just kind of this vicious cycle till November. So I think that’s helped me a lot, but again, I’ve taken some time off for my injuries and enjoyed my life off the court, so I think balance is important- really really important.
Q: Do you have any examples in your own career that you should’ve felt I could’ve taken a mental health break? Because it was too much for me, the media attention or whatever. Do you have any examples?
Bethanie Mattek-Sands: For me, like I said, I took some time off around my injuries. And you know, it’s easy to say I was forced to take some time off. But I think I decided to rather than feel pressured to come back quick, I really enjoyed my time at home. I enjoyed my time with friends, and I think that’s the biggest shift of my career. If you would’ve talked to me when I was younger, I would’ve said I maybe burned out myself a little and didn’t enjoy tennis. And thinking back, it makes me a little sad, because tennis is a fun game, and even though there is pressure, and that’s why you have a team around you. And that’s why you have a normal life outside of tennis. And when I see that players that kind of have some good balance, they are generally the ones that play longer, they play the season, they can deal with losing early, and then those wins because week to week, you could be at a high, and next week you lose first round four days later! So I think it’s important to have a good balance and I feel like I’ve been able to do that, within my schedule.Embed from Getty Images
Q: Yesterday, it was announced the Fed Cup would change its format to the Davis Cup. I spoke with Simona Halep yesterday about it in the press conference, she said she would possibly boycott it. Because she won’t be able to feel the atmosphere at home. What do you think?
Bethanie Mattek-Sands: You know what? It’s a topic we’ve talked about a lot over the last few years. We needed to find a way that the Fed Cup could fit in our schedule as well. The final was played in November, then we had two other weeks. It was tough to add more weeks onto the player’s schedules. So we’re gonna continue the talks right now. I’m actually on the player’s council, so we’re gonna talk to the ITF, the Fed Cup, and kind of come up with a win-win scenario and see what we can do about it. I think it’s very important for everyone to represent their country. I will say that, we come to tournaments like Eastbourne, it says Bethanie Mattek-Sands, and it says USA. We’re all really proud of our countries, whether we’re playing Fed Cup or Olympics or just week to week in the tournaments. But I think, it’s important to get behind some of these countries and get them excited about tennis, and their players, and that’s really my goal with Fed Cup. It’s how we can create that excitement with all these different countries and getting behind these local girls!
Q: Since we are on the topic of playing for your own country. Next year is the Olympics. Do you have any goals or have any given any thought to it?
Bethanie Mattek-Sands: Of course! Rio was my first Olympics, and I got a gold with Jack Sock in mixed doubles. So one of the big goals right now is to make the 2020 team. There’s a lot of time between now and then, a lot of tournaments. So it’s definitely in the horizon, but I would love to be in Tokyo. It was such a great experience in Rio, that I want to do it again.
Q: On the men’s side there is the Laver Cup. It has become a huge success, mainly due to the players showing a lot of passion for the event. Would you like to see the women’s being incorporated? Or perhaps creating a women’s only event similar to the Laver Cup. Would this be something you are interested in to take part?
Bethanie Mattek-Sands: Definitely! I would definitely take part. I think it’s one of the fun things to watch the Laver Cup for is how excited the players are getting out of it They have a short scoring short format, and makes the games and points exciting. They really did a great job on social media, everyone’s posting about it. They did a great job on fan engagement and interaction, and I think that’s what fans want, they want to get close and get in the action with the players, and they want to see the emotions, and I think it was a great competition. The women’s will definitely have something, whether that’s with the men with Laver cup or our own thing. We’ll definitely do something like that in the future
Q: Who would your dreams mixed doubles and doubles partner be from Team World?
Bethanie Mattek-Sands: I mean, Team World is stacked! I won with Jack (Sock), he’s unreal in doubles. When he gets those forehands, he punishes the ball, so I’m gonna throw Jack out there again. Women’s doubles from Team World… I’m going to have to go with…. so, Australia, I’m going to ask Ash Barty.
Q: Last question, Olympic singles gold medal, or a Grand Slam singles runners up?
Bethanie Mattek-Sands: Or a runners up?! You gotta go with the win. I think they’re both important. I mean, Olympics comes every four years so its a little bit more unique. But I want it all! Who doesn’t want it all? I want all the trophies!