Bethanie Mattek-Sands used to be more famous for her colorful outfits than her tennis. That’s about to change, now that she’s reached the third round of the French Open to jump past the injured Venus Williams in the world rankings.
Mattek-Sands, at No. 34 the top-ranked U.S. woman playing in Paris this year, beat fellow American Varvara Lepchenko 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 yesterday to advance deeper into the clay-court Grand Slam tournament’s singles draw than in four previous appearances.
The victory means Mattek-Sands will move ahead of five-time Wimbledon champion Williams, now ranked No. 30, in the Women’s Tennis Association rankings to be released after the French Open. Williams, who reached the fourth round of the Paris tournament last year, will drop to 1,560 rankings points. Mattek-Sands’s win yesterday moved her up to 1,588 points.
Serena Williams, Venus Williams’s sister and a 13-time Grand Slam champion, hasn’t played since winning Wimbledon in July because of a foot injury and a blood clot, and will drop from No. 17 to about No. 25 in the rankings after the French Open.
“Being the No. 1 American playing Roland Garros, it’s tough,” Mattek-Sands, 26, said in an interview yesterday. “Because when you think of American tennis, you think No. 1 in the world, or top 10, and I am not there yet. I am working on it, that’s my goal. But being a good player for U.S. tennis, that’s big shoes to fill.”
Mardy Fish, the top American man in Paris as the 10th seed, plays Robin Haase of the Netherlands in second-round action today. Five-time champion Rafael Nadal faces Pablo Andujar in an all-Spanish match, while Andy Murray of Britain meets Simone Bolelli of Italy.
Maria Sharapova, trying to win her first French Open and complete the career Grand Slam, plays Caroline Garcia of France. U.S. Open and Australian Open champion Kim Clijsters of Belgium faces Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands.
Novak Djokovic of Serbia ran his season record to 39-0 yesterday when his second-round opponent, Victor Hanescu of Romania, quit in the third set with an injury. Djokovic, who led 6-4, 6-1, 2-3 when the match ended, next plays No. 25 Juan Martin Del Potro of Argentina, the 2009 U.S. Open champion.
Roger Federer, winner of a men’s record 16 Grand Slam singles titles and the third seed this year, beat Maxime Teixeira of France 6-3, 6-0, 6-2.
Top-seeded Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark beat Aleksandra Wozniak of Canada 6-3, 7-6 (8-6) to reach the third round, and defending women’s champion Francesca Schiavone of Italy defeated Vesna Delonts of Russia 6-1, 6-2.
Zvonareva Defeats Lisicki
No. 3 Vera Zvonareva of Russia, who reached the final at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open last year, was down 5-2 in the third set to Sabine Lisicki of Germany before winning the final five games of the match for a 4-6, 7-5, 7-5 victory. Lisicki, who appeared to have leg cramps in the last few games, was taken off the court on a stretcher.
The Williams sisters have dominated women’s tennis for the past decade, winning 20 Grand Slam singles titles between them.
“They’re great players and I hope they come back, they’re really good for the tennis tour,” Mattek-Sands said. “They’ve been good for the game, and for women’s sports.”
Mattek-Sands spent most of her news conference yesterday talking about her fashion style and her tattoos. She beat Lepchenko wearing knee-high black socks and a pink T-shirt, and had black stripes under her eyes.
‘I’m Pretty Mellow’
“What’s funny, in the world of entertainment I’m pretty mellow actually,” she told reporters. “There are people doing a lot more crazy stuff. It’s just that tennis is so conservative that I wear some high socks and people are like, ‘Wow, that’s so different.’ I don’t mind it. For me it’s fun. That’s how I am off the court. I just like to be different.”
Getting to where she is now, in her 12th year on the women’s tour, has been tough, Mattek-Sands said in the interview. She started playing tennis at age 5.
“The upcoming Americans don’t realize how much of a grind it is, even to get your ranking up,” she said. “You have to play a lot of tournaments.”
Up next is Jelena Jankovic of Serbia, a three-time semifinalist in Paris. Mattek-Sands leads Jankovic 2-1 in career meetings, losing the only match they have played on clay.
“I’m going to play aggressive,” Mattek-Sands said. “I’ve got to keep in mind she moves very well. She gets to a lot of balls. I might have to be a little bit more patient. I’m still going to play aggressive, attack second serves like I’ve done pretty much every match, and try to get to the net.”