Pennetta and Mattek Battle the Heat in Carson

Bethanie Mattek and Flavia Pennetta ran around in 90 degree heat in Carson and battled through a one hour third set before Pennetta finally moved onto the final.

Bethanie Mattek was wearing one of her costumes but, true to her current desire to emphasize her tennis rather than her attire, what looked like a red and black brocade bodice with a frilly black skirt, actually turned out to be just a loud fuchsia and black stretch top and a black skort once I sat courtside and got a closer look at it.

Mattek was playing Flavia Pennetta in the semifinals here at Carson and this two hour and 40 minute match had everything: three tennis outfits, two visits from a trainer, temperatures high enough to invoke the heat rule, and a third set that was over an hour long.

Mattek got off to a good start by winning the first set 6-3, but she quickly went down 4-1 in the second set. She was down 4-0 in the second set of her quarterfinal match against Yuan Meng before coming back to win that match in straight sets so she might not have been worried, but there was a worrisome stat developing: she failed to win a point on her second serve in the first set and won only three in the second set – which she ended up losing 6-2.

Mattek would go on to retire from a doubles match later in the day because of a sore lower back. She said it had been bothering her for a few days and that brings up the following question: How long does it take a player to realize that they’re pretty good? In other words, why didn’t she withdraw from the doubles event and focus on her singles?

I wanted to try. I hate pulling out of events. What little I can do I’ll go out and play. Even if I can’t move that well I can cover half the court.

Most top singles players would pull out of doubles and focus on their singles if they were heading towards the semifinals, but Mattek – who will probably reach the top forty next week for the first time – doesn’t have that mentality yet and it cost her during her match with Pennetta.

At the end of the second set, the on court temperature was high enough to invoke the heat rule and the players had a ten minute timeout. Pennetta called for the trainer a second time to treat a blister on her foot and Mattek changed her outfit. To each her own.

When the set started, Mattek tried to irritate Pennetta’s blister by making her run after drop shots. With Pennetta serving at 4-4, Mattek had three opportunities to break then serve for the match but she couldn’t do it and she was having more trouble with her serve. Her sore back was hurting her during the landing on and she couldn’t get full extension. With Mattek serving for the set at 5-6, Pennetta hit three returns of serve for winners – one of them on match point. If Mattek had withdrawn from doubles and rested her back, she might have gotten through this match.

Meanwhile, Pennetta was into her first Tier II final with a 3-6, 6-2, 7-5 victory.

One other thing happened in that last game: Pennetta got a warning for courtside coaching and it was rather humorous when Pennetta got mad at the chair umpire. She was mad because, yes, of course her coach had been talking to her from the stands during the match, but in that particular instance, her coach hadn’t said anything so how dare the chair umpire warn her? And that is why Pennetta will not be voting for on court coaching when it comes up at the end of the year: if there is on court coaching, chair umpires will be more zealous about silencing coaches from the stands during the match and who wants that? Players get a lot more coaching with the current illegal system than they would if it were legalized so, by all means, let’s keep it illegal.