Bethanie Mattek-Sands' last couple of seasons have been a microcosm of her career, some signature wins and deep tournament runs mixed in with rankings dips related to injuries.
Mattek-Sands established her career-high ranking of No.30 in July 2011, the same month she became the top-ranked American. However, a 2012 season that saw her struggle with low back, left hip and left foot injuries resulted in her being outside the Top 200 as recently as last February.
But then a 2013 season highlighted by a runner-up showing at Kuala Lumpur, a semifinal outing at Stuttgart and a fourth round run at Roland Garros yielded her second Top 50 season.
And it's been more good news at the start of 2014, well mostly. Her 75 62 defeat of World No.5 Agnieszka Radwanska in the second round of Sydney earlier this week was her second Top 5 win, having beaten World No.4 Francesca Schiavone at Madrid in 2011.
"I'm very happy with it," Mattek-Sands said. "I've played her a couple times and I'd never beaten her, so it's probably one of the best wins of my career. But I'm really happy just to be competing right now. I got injured at the end of last year, so I'm happy just to be out there right now."
Unfortunately, the injury bug bit Mattek-Sands again in the Sydney quarterfinals, and she had to retire in the first set of her clash with fellow American Madison Keys because of a spine issue.
"Obviously I have played a lot of matches and I was coming off an injury from last year," Mattek-Sands said. "But the knee that I had hurt at the end of last year is feeling good, so that injury is fine. I just have to be careful. I've probably injured every part of my body at some point in my career. I just have to be smart about it. I want to keep playing throughout this whole year."
Mattek-Sands will go into the Australian Open at No.41, her highest rank since September 2011.
"I love playing tennis," Mattek-Sands said. "I feel that's just where I've been blessed with talent. It's something I've done since I was young. I just haven't accomplished everything I wanted to accomplish because of injuries. It's kind of always having that goal in mind. That's kind of what brings you back. I love playing tennis. I love competing. I want to say that's what keeps me motivated."
Mattek-Sands will open her Melbourne campaign against World No.3 Maria Sharapova, whom she is 0-5 against but hasn't played since 2010.