NEW YORK, NY, USA - Bethanie Mattek-Sands is back into the US Open mixed doubles final with Jamie Murray after taking down No.3 seeds Sam Stosur and Rajeev Ram in straight sets.
The wildcard duo - who lifted the trophy here last year - was dialed in on Louis Armstrong Stadium after a couple of games against Stosur and Ram, a first-time partnership.
Mattek-Sands and Murray earned a late break in the opening set at 3-3, and reeled off the next five games in a row to take the set and start the second with a 2-0 lead. The pair didn’t let up the intensity, and won the last five games to book their spot into the final, 6-3, 6-1.
“We came out and played really strong.I think we’ve played together as a team at a few events now, so there’s certain points where we’re kind of covering each other,” Mattek-Sands said of her on-court chemistry with Murray. “Sometimes, those points are the difference in mixed doubles, especially when it’s deuce points [deciding points] and 10-point tiebreakers.
“I felt like we served really well today, and obviously our goal is to see how many returns we can get back to get in the point. We’re both obviously trying to get to the net too. But no, we played well today.”
It’s Mattek-Sands’ first Grand Slam final of the year after having to sit out almost five months after the Australian Open due to injury complications in her right knee.
At Wimbledon in 2017, she suffered a horrifying patellar dislocation and ruptured patellar ligament during a match, requiring surgery and extensive rehab to recover. This year, Mattek-Sands explained, a second surgery was needed to remove excess plica tissue that had been building up behind the same kneecap.
Mattek-Sands returned to the tennis courts in Eastbourne, but the drop in ranking meant that, despite being defending champions, Murray and she needed a wildcard to enter this year’s US Open.
“We needed a wildcard to get into it this year’s draw! Even though we’re defending champs, his ranking dropped a bit but really it was on me - I had my surgery in February and I was out for a while,” she explained. “I still feel like my knee, and my timing, and my match play is still all consistently getting better week to week.”
She added, “It’s been a journey. I literally had to learn how to walk again, run again, get my range of motion back, watch my knee go from this size to this,” she mimes a balloon deflating, "Like ‘I got this, I can start seeing my kneecap again!’
“So I’ve had a lot of little wins along the way. So it’s not an instance where I’m getting here and I’m like ‘Oh my god, finally!’ But it feels really good.”
Up next, Mattek-Sands and Murray will take on the top seeds Chan Hao-Ching and Michael Venus for a chance to repeat at the US Open. Chan had to take down her sister Latisha, who was partnered with Ivan Dodig, in order to reach the final, 7-6(3), 7-5.