NEW YORK, NY, USA - Former WTA Doubles No.1 Bethanie Mattek-Sands was recognized alongside former WTA star Andrea Jaeger and famed fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger at the 2019 NYJTL Leadership Luncheon.
Held annually in New York City, the NYJTL - or New York Junior Tennis & Learning - sponsored the inaugural Bronx Open earlier this year and awarded Mattek-Sands with its Next Leadership Award to honor the American's work both on and off the court.
"All the trophies and medals I've won over my career have not amounted to what I've gotten from tennis," she said in a speech that followed a video introduction by Billie Jean King. "I found a confidence that I didn't know I had, as well as an inner strength that I never knew I had."
A nine-time major champion - five in women's doubles and four in mixed - Mattek-Sands successfully returned to tennis after suffering a traumatic knee injury that required surgery and over eight months away from tennis, time she spent honing her a burgeoning career as an ESPN analyst and collaborating with fashion and lifestyle brands that include BMS + Lucky in Love, Primally Pure Skincare, and Kimo Sabe Mezcal.
The 34-year-old has also spent part of her off-season further sharpening her entrepreneurial instincts by studying at the Harvard Business School Cross Over Program, all while preparing for another season on the WTA tour in 2020.
Mattek-Sands turned pro at 14, the same age as Jaeger, a two-time major finalist who receieved the NYJTL's Service Award in recognition of her 34 years of work with cancer-stricken and terminally ill children through her Little Star Foundation.
"I grew up playing junior tournaments in New York, and to know that the NYJTL is also out there helping kids, giving them an opportunity not just to play tennis, but to also learn and do that in over 100 different areas and clubs," she said in an interview before the ceremony.
"It's really special, because any time you can give back to kids, it inspires that next generation, and also kids right now, who need help."
Moderated by L. Jon Wertheim of Sports Illustrated and Tennis Channel, the NYJTL Leadership Luncheon also awarded Hilfiger with its Leadership Award, along with the Seymour Propp Achievement Award and Sportsmanship Award to NYC youths Christopher Perez and Isis Rodriguez, respectively.