Bethanie Mattek-Sands has opened up about her emotional journey back to fitness after suffering a horror injury at Wimbledon last June.
The American was forced to spend more than six months away from the court after slipping and causing serious damage to her right knee when playing Sorana Cirstea in the second round of the Grand Slam.
Despite the nature of her problem, she always showed determination to return to competition but admitted that it was hugely emotional when she was eventually able to play in Miami last month.
“When they announced my name, I teared up a little bit, which was totally unexpected,” she admitted. “I thought I’d maybe break down and cry a little bit after the match, but before the match I was pumped up with emotion. It was a great feeling walking out there with all the support I get in Miami, it’s one of my favourite events.”
Throughout her rehabilitation, she made it clear of the importance she had placed on facing her fears, so when pitted against Alizé Cornet she went quickly to the tactic that her caused her months of suffering.
“My plan was to serve and volley on my first serve because that’s how I injured myself,” she said, before admitted she had long before decided that would be her ploy. “I hadn’t even started rehab and I said: ‘I’m going to serve and volley, face my fear.’
“It’s my game. I love being at net, I love being aggressive, so I wasn’t going to let my injury or thoughts of an injury interrupt me.”
The journey back has been a long one for the former WTA World No.30, whose ranking has fallen to 201 due to her long period of inactivity.
“I started out in a huge brace on crutches, finally got rid of the crutches, got a smaller brace, then eventually went out a couple of times without the brace, felt a little unsteady, put the brace back on for a couple more days,” she said.
“I remember the first time I was able to move side to side, I just started bawling. I had so much outpouring of positive, inspirational messages, from fans, friends and family. That’s something that’s pushed me forward.”
Mattek-Sands was a prolific user of social media during her recovery and she says that it helped her significantly.
“I put myself out there,” she said. “I talked about how I believe in choosing your attitude and taking the process step by step. So by doing that out on social media and in the public, I had to stick by it.
“I felt there was a lot of people who could relate to my situation and we all kind of inspired each other. Sometimes you look at situations and it just seems there’s a huge mountain in front of you and that’s when you can gather inspiration from the people around you. I feel like I have some amazing fans and followers.”
Meanwhile, at 33 she is likely moving into the latter stages of her career, but she does not want her travails to hold her back from further success, having already won seven Grand Slam doubles titles, five women’s, two mixed.
“I love tennis, and I want people to see this side of me. I don’t want people to think that since I’ve made it back to the court I’ve made it. It was a big step but it’s definitely not the end,” she said.
“I had a ton of momentum when I went into Wimbledon and got hurt. I was coming off winning the US Open, winning French Open, winning Australian Open, winning the gold medal in Rio, reaching No.1 in the world. It just all stopped in a split step.
“I take the confidence I had when I was playing all those matches and I bring it forward to now. I still believe in myself the same way. I still go out there every single match, singles or doubles, and look to win. That’s what got me all those results in the past and what will get me those results in the future.”