Team Bucie back in the game

Good news Tuesday from former No. 1-ranked doubles player Bethanie Mattek-Sands.

She and partner Lucie Safarova are about to get back on the court.

Mattek-Sands, 32, has been out of action since a horrifying knee injury suffered during her second-round singles match at Wimbledon last summer.

She has kept busy, doing television work with ESPN and chronicling her recovery.

But now, eight months later, she and Safarova will return at Indian Wells, per the USTA.

They also will play Miami and Charleston.

And then there were three

During Mattek-Sands’s absence from the courts, longtime Safarova coach Rob Steckley has returned. And so the gleesome threesome, and their entertaining videos, will be extra-added entertainment.

Mattek-Sands could use a protected ranking when she returns. As with Serena Williams, who went off the grid as she had her first child, she was ranked No. 1 when she was injured.

But her actual ranking has only dropped to No. 23 as of right now. So she and Safarova won’t have trouble getting into most tournaments – at least early on.

With Williams also expected to return at Indian Wells, there will be plenty of happy comeback stories.

Mattek-Sands updates her injury

WIMBLEDON – World No. 1 doubles player Bethanie Mattek-Sands went on Facebook Live Saturday afternoon to give her fans an update on her injury and where she goes from here.

When the 32-year-old American fell to the grass on court during her second-round singles match against Sorana Cirstea of Romania, it was immediately clear that she was in tremendous pain.

(Here’s the original post on the awful incident).

mattekOn the Facebook livecast, Mattek-Sands said she dislocated her patella out on the court. And she also ruptured the patella tendon.

The American will head to New York City Sunday to undergo examinations by other doctors.

But she does know she will need surgery.

“I was out there for awhile, felt like an eternity to me. Just kind of remember everyone getting ready to straighten to my leg. And I kept telling Justin (husband Justin Sands), if anyone straightens my leg, I’m going to kill you,” Mattek-Sands said. “I thought they were going to try to adjust my leg on the court. And I said, ‘I want to be knocked out in the hospital when they do it.’ “

“I think I was in a moment where I just didn’t want to move. It was so painful and I had all this adrenaline going for the match. It was really kind of overwhelming,” she added.

Smiling through the tears

mattekMattek-Sands said she can’t remember anyone actually straightening out her leg. So people were listening to her.

She remembers waking up in the hospital bed, and it was straight again.

“I remember just all thoughts going through my mind, about rehab, and my chance at Wimbledon. Doubles with Lucie. And I think anyone that knows me knows I’m pretty positive, and I smile a lot. But I was having a hard time, so I want to let everyone know that there are times even I’m upset, down, but I want to for myself, stay strong and get through these times,” Mattek-Sands added.

The American said she figures she’s read most of the many, many messages she has received from both fellow players and fans. She was touched by two of her best friends on Tour, Sania Mirza and Sorana Cirstea, coming by to visit as well as Jack Sock’s sneaker tribute.

“I’m a pretty positive person naturally. But there’s moments when it helps to hear so many positive things,” she said.

Horrific injury for Mattek-Sands

WIMBLEDON – It could happen to anyone, Sorana Cirstea said.

Those are the risks of playing on grass.

But on Thursday, it happened to her opponent during their second-round singles match at Wimbledon. It happened to a friend she likes and respects immensely, just a few feet away from her.

Later, after Bethanie Mattek-Sands’s horrific knee injury gave Cirstea the victory by default, she recounted the incident.

“She went into shock. She kept staying, ‘Sorana, help me. Sorana, help me. Sorana, help me.’

“I said, ‘I am here, you are strong, you can do this. I was trying, but of course I felt useless. In this kind of moment when she was screaming so loud, you watch the knee, it was a very uncomfortable moment. I felt, yeah, a little bit useless. I wish I could have done more,” the Romanian said. 

Here’s what happened (if you’re squeamish, skip it. The soundtrack is both harrowing and heartbreaking):

Cirstea didn’t actually see it.

The first thing she saw was that Mattek-Sands had hit the grass. And then the 32-year-old American started screaming. And then Cirstea saw the state of Mattek-Sands’ knee as soon as she crossed over the net and got closer.

“Her knee was in a very weird position. I’ve never seen anything like this probably except in the movies. And, yeah, I panicked a little bit, as well,” she said. “Then, yeah, I called for help, but no one was coming. Then tried to comfort her as much as I could. But, I mean, you could feel the pain.”

The way Cirstea described it, the patella was displaced; it was nowhere near where it should have been.

The official word from the WTA is “acute right knee injury”

Help slow in coming

The concerns, going forward, were about how long it took for help to arrive.

Mattek

It was a steamy hot day at the All-England Club on Thursday. And there were multiple incidents of fans in the stands overcome by the heat.

During the match between Juan Martin del Potro and Ernests Gulbis across the grounds on No. 3 Court, the match was stopped for fully 25 minutes at one point. Two spectators had been overcome by the head and needed care. But in those cases as well, help took a long time to come.

“For me at least, I was there on the ground, and it felt forever. It was me, her husband (Justin Sands) and my physio,” Cirstea said. “I don’t know, there are sports where you see something’s happening, you see straightaway the help. Like I know football, box(ing), all the others, it’s straightaway.

Doubles partner Lucie Safarova came to Court 17 as soon as she heard; she was getting ready to go play her own singles match. (ESPN)

“So of course you wonder what happen if it was a heart issue or something like this. Yes, of course, you start (to) wonder.

But I think someone has to take the video and actually time and see how long it took for people to get there. Because for me, I think she was too long on the ground. I mean, I was there for 10, 15 minutes, then I left and the stretcher was not there yet,” she added.

At one point, Mattek-Sands’ doubles partner and best friend Lucie Safarova came over. She was about to  play her own singles match against Shelby Rogers – she already had her match kit on. She looked stricken.

Safarova ended up losing the match 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-3. Her post-match plan was to go see her friend in the hospital.

A popular player

Cirstea said Mattek-Sands was actually her friend, someone she gets along very well with. “You don’t even want this to happen to your worst enemy. But to your friend, you know… ” she said.”It’s not easy because at the end of the day it’s not about tennis any more. We are like a family. You want everyone to be okay. It doesn’t matter you win, you lose, once you are out, you want them to be okay.”

Mattek

In her younger days Mattek-Sands was known more for her iconoclastic tennis outfits than her tennis. But as the years have passed, she has evolved into not only an excellent singles player – a great, athletic, all-court player who does everything well – but the best doubles player in the world.

She and Safarova, having won last year’s US Open, and the Australian and French Open this year, were going for the non-calendar Grand Slam at Wimbledon.

More than that, Mattek-Sands has matured into a valued voice on the WTA Tour, a den mother to some of the younger players. She’s a player liked and respected by almost everyone, who treats everyone with respect.

Mattek
Mattek-Sands greets Francesca Schiavone at the net, after the veteran Italian’s final match at the French Open last month. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

There’s a certain comfort level she has grown into professionally, a certain security. Mattek-Sands knows where she stands in the game. She knows how good she is at what she does. And now, in her 30s a certain level of grace, almost statesmanship (tattooed statesmanship, the 21st century kind) has set in.

She and husband Justin Sands, who travels with her and was quick to jump on the court to try to come to her aid Thursday, are popular fixtures around the tennis circuit.

Here she is during their first-round doubles win the previous day.

Mattek

 

Had some buddies visit me in the hospital yesterday ☺️?❤️ #FeelTheLove @mirzasaniar and @soranacirstea #ThankYou ?

A post shared by BeTHaniE MATTeK-SaNDS (@matteksands) on

Twitter wishes

The well-wishes on Twitter came quickly and often.

No doubt there were many more sent privately.