Bethanie Mattek Lets it Rip in Carson

I had some technical difficulties today so I’m just getting around to posting. The interview material below is from yesterday but I’ve included some results from today. I’ll be back tomorrow with ATP Fantasy Picks and the semifinals in Carson.

It’s been a tough week here in Carson just south of Los Angeles. Ana Ivanovic evidently didn’t want to fly to the west coast to defend her title then fly back east to Toronto next week. I don’t know why Maria Sharapova isn’t here. Svetlana Kuznetsova is hobbled and Serena Williams’ knee is inflamed.

The shakeup has affected attendance. Local favorite Lindsey Davenport committed then pulled out with a bum knee and that hasn’t helped. Luckily for the organizers, there is still a U.S. player in the draw and her identity is not surprising given her recent results: Bethanie Mattek. And she is my new favorite WTA player.

She’s been adding game to her adventurous sense of fashion and it took her to the semifinals at Birmingham, the fourth round at Wimbledon – where she beat defending finalist Marion Bartoli, and now she’s in the semifinals here in Carson after beating Yuan Meng, 6-2, 7-5.

Mattek said she’s been toning down her wardrobe and focusing on her tennis more but, not to worry, you can expect something special at the U.S. Open:

I’ve kind of toned it down the last few months. I’ve gotten a lot of questions. What’s happening? What’s wrong? For the U.S. Open I’ll definitely pull something out.

Be sure to catch the singles, not the doubles, if you want to see what she pulls out, because if she plays doubles with Sania Mirza as she has here, Mirza has made her promise not to wear one of her outrageous outfits. Apparently playing doubles with Shahar Peer – Peer is an Israeli Jew while Mirza is a Muslim – will get Mirza in less trouble than taking to the court with a scantily dressed doubles partner.

Prior to Mattek’s recent run, she hadn’t been past the second round of a WTA event in more than a year and therein likes a story because the biggest improvement in her game is her conditioning, and yet she no longer does aerobics in her off-court workouts.

I’ve long thought that sports medicine gets it wrong and Mirza may be a case in point. Mirza injured her wrist and had surgery in April and came back two months later. But when I watched her second round match here, her serve looked terrible. It had very little wrist snap. Mirza has an extreme takeback on her ferocious forehand and at the time of her surgery, I wondered if she shouldn’t focus on rehabilitative work for her wrist such as changing her swing instead of getting the quick fix of surgery.

Mattek appears to have taken a different approach and it’s interesting to note that she did it out of sheer desperation because she was so frequently injured:

I changed my fitness. I’ve got a new trainer and he has different ways of working out and getting people in shape. It’s more injury prevention. I’ve worked hard before and I’d get in shape but I’d get injured a lot.

What is she doing then? It’s called isometrics and you might remember those old Charles Atlas ads in comic books where a man gets sand kicked in his face in front of his girlfriend by a muscle-bound beach bully. The poor guy signs up for Atlas’ Dynamic-Tension muscle building program and redeems himself.

Instead of doing dynamic weight work, Mattek gets into positions such as a lunge or a squat and stays there for five minutes. If you think that’s not hard, try getting into a squat and staying there for a while and see how long you can ignore those screaming thigh muscles. She hasn’t been on a treadmill in the last year and she doesn’t do those two hour practices anymore. So what does she do for cardio:

I run in my tennis matches.

And that’s it. Sometimes she’ll do footwork with her racket in hand but the people at her training facility, Ultrafit in Phoenix, focus on her form so that she can move efficiently and avoid injury. Moving efficiently will help conditioning because your body is working less, and isometrics will help conditioning because hitting a forehand on court is a breeze after sinking down into a lunge for 5 minutes at a time. As to whether they eliminate the need for off court cardio work, though, that’s seems unlikely.

Back to the subject of being scantily dressed. Mattek won a junior Fed Cup title with Ashley Harkleroad so, inevitably, the question of Harkleroad’s spread in this month’s Playboy came up. What does Mattek think of it:

You know what, I actually saw some of the pictures and good for her! The pictures look great and I think it’s cool. I know not a lot of girls would do that but I think if you’ve got the balls to do it I think it’s great.

I like this woman! Let it rip Bethanie. Tell it like it is.