A variety of American players, including Bethanie Mattek-Sands, veteran Jill Craybas and rising stars Lauren Davis and Varvara Lepchenko, are blogging for USTA.com during the 2011 Australian Open in Melbourne. Check back to see who is blogging next!
I started the season playing the Hopman Cup for the US with John Isner it was great. We had a lot of fun playing the mixed, the set up was cool, Perth was relaxing and I had some really great matches. Everyone there wanted to win and we won! There was great competition with Ana Ivanovic, Justine Henin and even the juniors who played there like Laura Robson played great. The fans got into it, the stadium was packed, different people were cheering for a different countries and it was cool.
Tennis should be more like that, where it's marketed to get the fans gets involved with. They sell out almost all the time and some of the smaller tournaments should get some pointers from what they do.
I'm not sure whether ranking points should be offered for mixed. If you are playing singles, doubles and mixed at a Slam, and you do well at any of them , you are playing every day and it's a lot and there are no easy matches at any stage.
If you think about football you play one game a week. If I only had top play one match a week and knew when I was going on and all I had to do was feel good for one day, that be the easiest thing. I'm not getting down on football players because it's a contact sport, but we are playing two matches a day, running on hard surfaces, changing directions and we do it all the time.
Today, I burnt my right thumb. I was doing the I- formation with both hands down and I felt my hand and said, holy crap I have a bubble on my right thumb. I was like, 'What's that smell?' I've never done that before. The sun is so hot in Australia. I have SP 100 sunscreen on and I still got burnt. The sun just beats on you.
Tennis has all those side effects, although I've only retired once form match in my career at Challenger in Kentucky when I fell and ripped the skin off my hand.
Look at basketball where they play in an air-conditioned arenas. I realize they work hard but I think that the demands on tennis players is super difficult. You are playing all the time, you are running around and it's just you out there. I always make fun of football players, my husband's friends. They run down the field 50 years and they are exhausted and they are getting oxygen on the sidelines. If I had a long point I would love to say, hold on, sub me out, let me recover and get some oxygen. I'm very respectful of all other athletes who work hard, but I still think tennis is one of the more difficult sports.
I do think fans would like to see doubles more because so many fans play more doubles than they do singles. They want to know more about the interactions between partners, and doubles brings that out, but you almost never see it on TV. But double matches are well attended at tournaments, it's just how it marketed. There are a lot of different shots, players are more relaxed and smiling, they play more freely.
Generally the partners I've played with are good friends of mine and we are open with each other and it helps just to talk to them. I'll say, 'That was a crap forehand," and she'll say just rip the next one and I will feel better. Doubles is fun, but at the same time I've played matches where I've put too much pressure on myself, too. I'm super competitive and don't like to see chances slide away.
Singles is still my main goal. I had a good start in reaching the final of Hobart and had a little blip here at the Australian Open, losing to Arantxa Rus in the first round. She played well, but I didn't come out the same way I did in Hobart. A couple of the girls I beat there are in the fourth round of the Australian Open. I can't get too bummed out about it, even though it's a Slam and everyone wants to do well here.
I've jumped 10 spots in singles and I get to play Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin again in our Fed Cup tie coming up in Belgium on February 5-6. I'm pumped up. I've had tough matches against both of them and want to get back on court against them. That's why I train, to be play against players like them.
I'm playing doubles with Meghan Shaughnessy here and it's working out really well. We only live like 15 minutes from each other in Scottsdale, so in the off-season we were able to work on signs and communicating. We've gotten a ton better and we are going to try and play together the whole year. You leave it open if you lose say seven first rounds in a row, but we are both OK with having bad days. You really want to get a partner you can get to the year-end Championships with and that's our goal.