PARIS Long a member of tennis avant-garde when it comes to on-court fashion and accessories, Bethanie Mattek-Sands is wearing eyeblack strips with a downward curl at the French Open.
Football players and Major League Baseball players wear them because it helps a little bit with the glare. And I think it does; Ive noticed a little bit of a difference, the American said Wednesday. But it does look kind of mean, so thats all right, too.
Mattek-Sands usually stands out at Grand Slam tournaments because of her sartorial selections, which at times have included a metallic gold Wonder Woman ensemble, an argyle cowboy hat, leopard-print shorts and her signature knee-high socks.
At Roland Garros, her play is drawing notice, too.
By defeating Varvara Lepchenko 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 on Wednesday, Mattek-Sands became the first U.S. woman other than Serena or Venus Williams to reach the French Opens third round since 2006.
It was a tough match, but third set, I came out and wanted to be aggressive, the 34th-ranked Mattek-Sands said. I noticed she was struggling when I hit hard and deep, so that was my goal to do that more.
She also pushed forward whenever there were openings and won 14 of 21 the points at the net.
I guess she was just not missing, and I had few unlucky shots that kind of decided the ... third set, she said. Few points here, few points there.
According to the WTA, Wednesdays result means Mattek-Sands is projected to pass seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams in the rankings released after the French Open. That would make Mattek-Sands the No. 2 American woman, behind only Serena Williams.
Serena Williams is 17th this week, and Venus Williams is 30th. Both withdrew from the French Open because of health issues and injuries. Depending on how long the sisters stay sidelined, and how Mattek-Sands performs, she could be the top American sometime this summer.
It would be huge, Mattek-Sands said. But when you think of American tennis, you think of No. 1 in the world. So I dont think Im officially the No. 1 player until I can get top 10. Thats my goal.
Another goal, she said this week, is to be among the 32 women who get seeded at a Grand Slam tournament.
Mattek-Sands lost in the first or second round at 19 of her previous 20 major tournaments. The exception: She reached the fourth round at Wimbledon in 2008.
If shes going to match that showing in Paris, Mattek-Sands will need to get past her pal Jelena Jankovic of Serbia, who is seeded 10th. Jankovic was the runner-up at the 2008 U.S. Open and has reached the semifinals at Roland Garros three times.
She likes the clay. Shes playing good, so Ive got to be ready, Mattek-Sands said. Ive got to keep in mind she moves very well. I mean, she gets to a lot of balls. I might have to be a little bit more patient. Im still going to play aggressive, attack second serves like Ive done pretty much every match, and try to get to net. Even though were on clay, its still working.
The 27-year-old Mattek-Sands, who was born in Minnesota and lives in Arizona, enjoys the attention her attire draws.
Tennis is so conservative, that I wear some high socks, and people are like, Wow, thats so different. I dont mind it, she said. For me, its fun. Thats how I am off the court. I just like to be different.
Observed 2010 French Open finalist Sam Stosur: She obviously shows a little bit of outspokenness with what she wears and whatnot.
Mattek-Sands eyeblack Wednesday featured a script B on each strip for her first initial. She also has tattoos flowers on the inside of her upper right arm; killer bees (a childhood nickname) on her right wrist; her husbands name on her left ring finger and is trying to decide what to do for her next one. She hopes it will be drawn by an artist who tattooed soccer star David Beckham.
Deep down, Im a person that, you know, I want everybody to like me, Mattek-Sands said. Its tough, because there are always going to be people that dont, no matter what I do even if I didnt do any of that. ... I can be a little sensitive about it.
Shes also set some pretty high standards so far. Fans and other players wonder what Mattek-Sands will come up with next.
At last years U.S. Open, she recalled, a fan approached her after a match to complain.
I had a guy come up to me and say, The only reason I came out was to see your outfit, and it was boring today, Mattek-Sands said. I was like, Thanks. I won my match, but OK.