Mattek-Sands needs surgery after agonizing knee injury

Published 3:14 pm Saturday, July 8, 2017

LONDON — Top-ranked women’s doubles player Bethanie Mattek-Sands needs surgery after dislocating her right kneecap and rupturing her patellar tendon during a singles match at Wimbledon.

“One of the most painful injuries that I’ve had,” the 32-year-old American said on Facebook Live on Saturday, “and I’ve had a few in my career.”

Wearing a black brace on her right leg, Mattek-Sands teared up and took some moments to gather herself as she appeared for about 10 minutes , speaking about what she called “an emotional and painful roller-coaster the past few days.”

Email newsletter signup

Mattek-Sands arrived at Wimbledon bidding for a non-calendar-year Grand Slam in doubles with playing partner Lucie Safarova. The duo had won three major tournaments in a row and five overall.

In singles, Mattek-Sands is ranked 103rd and received a wild-card entry from the All England Club. Facing Sorana Cirstea of Romania in the second round on Thursday, Mattek-Sands fell to the grass when her right knee buckled as she moved toward the net in the third set’s opening game.

She immediately clutched her knee and, down on the turf, wailed loudly, imploring for someone to “Help me! Help me!”

Mattek-Sands said Saturday she has not watched video of what happened, adding: “I hate watching sports injuries on TV.”

“All I remember was hearing this ‘pop’ in my leg and everything was kind of slow after that. It was just this loud ‘pop,’” Mattek-Sands said.

“I just remember trying to take a step, my leg not being able to hold me, and I just went down. I remember my knee just feeling really tight and I took a look at it and something was wrong. … Something looked so wrong about it,” she said. “And I knew it was either dislocated or broken. I think at that point, I kind of freaked out.”

Cirstea climbed over the net to check on Mattek-Sands and attempt to comfort her.

“We’re all competitors on tour, and yet so many of the girls are my friends. And I think in that moment, Sorana was there as my friend,” Mattek-Sands said. “It didn’t really matter we were in the middle of a match. And it means a lot to me. She’s an amazing person.”

Mattek-Sands said “it felt like an eternity” until medical personnel eventually put her on a stretcher to remove her from Court 17 so she could be taken to the hospital.

“I remember all these thoughts going through my mind about rehab and my chance at Wimbledon, doubles with Lucie,” Mattek-Sands said. “And I think anyone that knows me knows I’m pretty positive and I smile a lot.”

She’s popular among other players on tour, known for a gregarious personality and loud fashion statements, including the stars-and-stripes knee-high socks she sported while teaming with Jack Sock to win a mixed-doubles gold medal for the U.S. at last year’s Rio de Janeiro Olympics. Sock wrote her name on the shoes he wore during a mixed doubles match at Wimbledon on Friday.

Mattek-Sands will travel to New York on Sunday to see more doctors.

“I’ll be out for a while,” she said.

That is nothing new. Mattek-Sands, who was born in Minnesota, lived in Wisconsin and now calls Arizona home, had hip surgery less than a week after getting married in 2008. She tore her shoulder in 2011. She broke her right big toe in 2012. Her ranking dropped outside the top 250 in singles and doubles in 2014, when she missed six months after another hip operation.

“I’ll get through this,” she said Saturday.

Toward the end of her live video, Mattek-Sands mentioned the hospital visits she received from Cirstea and others, along with messages of support that flooded in after her injury.

“There’s moments when it helps to hear so many positive things. So thank you,” she said. “And I’ll get back out there.”