LONDON, Great Britain – Bethanie Mattek-Sands says that she has “rediscovered her love” for tennis after close to two years of knee problems.
The American, who is chasing career Grand Slams in both Ladies and Mixed doubles at Wimbledon, suffered a ruptured patella tendon and dislocated kneecap at the event in 2017 when playing Sorana Cirstea, keeping her out the game for more than a year.
She returned successfully to win the US Open mixed doubles with Jamie Murray but has taken another period out following further knee surgery at the beginning of 2019.
Now back and fully fit, she is looking forward to getting back in major action following a return to the scene at Eastbourne last week.
“I really feel like I’ve found my love of the game again, competing and finding the strategy,” she said. “Here I am, let’s go!
“Last week was my first tournament since the Australian Open, so almost six months, and I played with Kirsten Flipkens, one of my good friends on Tour. We hadn’t played before, but we had a lot of fun.
“Doubles is so much about the friendship and the communication, and coming back after being out for so long, I wanted to play with someone I knew well. We made the finals, but we lost in three sets. I was really happy with how my knee felt.”
Outlining her plans for the fortnight ahead, she said: “Coming into Wimbledon, obviously I love playing here. I’m playing with Danielle Collins – we haven’t played doubles before, but we’re good friends off the court. She feisty out there. If I’m going to go into battle with anyone out there, it’s Danielle Collins!
“And then a little bit of mixed doubles with Jamie Murray. I’m pumped to play with him. Obviously, we did really well at the US Open last year, winning the title, this year, quarterfinals in Australia.
“I talked to him a bit before the French and I said: ‘No, but sign me up for Wimbledon, 100% I’m going to be there.’”
Mattek-Sands has not visited the scene of her injury this year but made the trip to the court last year and feels ready to put the incident behind her.
“I had a moment when I went and sat on the court, the court and I had a discussion, we’re friends now,” she said. “I feel like I got a lot of it out last year.
“Coming into this year and playing on the courts, my knee feels confident.
“I’ve spent so many hours building the trust back. It’s not just about rebuilding the strength and reducing the swelling and letting it heal – it’s about mentally trusting that side again, trusting that movement and just getting out to play.
“The knee’s doing really good. It’s not making any cover shoots for Vogue magazine - unfortunately there are a few scars! But they’re good. They’re memories of a past moment. I’m sure I’ll be doing rehab and training for the rest of my life, but I’m really happy with the strength I’m feeling in my legs.”
And despite the long hours in the gym strengthening the joint, Mattek-Sands always tried to look on the positive side of things.
“I talk about enjoying the moment, and there’s times when I had to enjoy being at home. I feel like I did,” she said. “I’m really glad that even though I wasn’t able to chase my goals on the court, I still did a lot of things at home – hanging out with friends, family, my dog. I knew that the time for me to be competing would come.”
That time is now here, and she is determined to make the most of it. Her doubles tilt starts Wednesday with Collins against Andreea Mitu and Pauline Parmentier.