NEW YORK, NY, USA - Injuries are never fun, but the time off has allowed former WTA Doubles No.1 Bethanie Mattek-Sands to catch up on one of her favorite TV shows: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.
“Oh my God, I watch the show non-stop," the American said after taking a tour of the show's impressive set. "I’m actually surprised that there are still episodes I have not seen. I happily sit down during the off-season, after I’ve unpacked my bags, gotten home from a long trip, and just do an eight-hour marathon.”
Mattek-Sands is in the midst of healing a knee injury sustained at the Wimbledon Championships; already walking with limited range of motion - and the help of some snazzy crutches - the Olympic mixed doubles gold medalist caught up with the award-winning cast as they shot an episode from their upcoming nineteenth season.
"I don’t get geeked out over a lot of things, but I was totally starstruck down here. I’m the biggest tourist right now. I got to check out everything behind the scenes, even Detective Benson’s wardrobe!" she said of star Mariska Hargitay.
Joined by husband Justin, Mattek-Sands got up close and personal with the inner workings of an ever-adaptable SVU studio, which is located on the West Side of Manhattan. In between takes, Hargitay and co-stars Ice T, Kelli Giddish, and Peter Scanavino took time to meet the top tennis talent, discovering that preparing for a big match isn't so different than solving crime as a fictional detective.
"There’s a lot of downtime in between takes, when you’re waiting for the crew to set up lighting or set up sound. So it felt like I'd be waiting for a match to end, and sometimes that can be like John Isner and Nicolas Mahut!
"There was also a lot of repetition of the scenes, which I feel like can kind of be applied to how we practice - you know, 500 forehands crosscourt, can we hit the target ten times in a row?"
By the time she finished the visit, Mattek-Sands admitted to catching a bit of the acting bug.
"It was really cool kind of seeing them in action, and it’s something I’d love to do! I’m gonna have to throw this out there as a possible second, third career or something like that. I think it would be fun to kind of be a part of that.
"I’d definitely have to work on my memorization; I’m a little bit better kind of on the fly, and it’s not always easy when you’re getting interrupted or they’re shifting the scene around. We just look at the final edit and see the best takes from beginning to end, and you don’t realize kinda how much work went into it. It’s really inspiring.”
The seven-time Grand Slam champion in women's and mixed doubles aims to channel that inspiration into a forthcoming comeback, one that could see herself back on tour by January.
"The next Grand Slam is the Australian Open; that’s really pretty quick, but I’ll probably know in the next month if that’s a realistic goal. Every athlete wants to get back really quickly, but I’ve been through this before, and I’m really going to listen to my body, and if it’s not ready in a few months, it’s not ready, and I’m okay with that. I have plenty of other things going on, and I’m enjoying my downtime as much as I can right now.
"Right now, I’m feeling a lot better. I'm able to bend my knee a little bit further do do a couple rotations, but that's the limit of my range. I’m walking better, I’m down to one crutch. I’m definitely in a lot less pain than I was in the video. I haven’t watched it, and don't plan to; I went through it.
"All my doctors and therapists are really excited about how quickly I’m healing up. From the suture wound to the inflammation, it’s all really healing fast. So I’m happy about that. I’m not on the court yet, but I’m getting a couple wall sessions. I’m going to get my coach to feed the ball right to me, and do a couple volleys and shots like that, but right now it’s just about recovery and just letting the body heal, and giving it time to do that."