Saturday 25 February 2017

Get your coat

Lady Gaga wannabe Mattek-Sands serves up fashion frenzy, but not much else

Chris McGrath , at Wimbledon

How 'bout that? They went to see a fashion parade on Court 14, and a tennis match broke out.

American Bethanie Mattek-Sands arrived for her second-round tie with Misaki Doi wearing a jacket that could only be described as explosive. That is to say, it appeared to be in the very process of exploding. The fabric -- predominately white, of course -- was ludicrously frilled and festooned in tennis balls.

It looked not unlike an igloo, presumably one in which someone had cut a hole in the ice below. For the quickest way to catch a fish, as everyone knows, is to drop a grenade in the water.

Mattek-Sands was also sporting trademark black stripes above her cheekbones. This may look another affectation, but is apparently borrowed from the NFL, where it is said to reduce glare. Be that as it may, it made her look exactly as though some practical joker had purloined Hercule Poirot's moustache, and placed it beneath her eyes while she was sleeping.

Perhaps that kind of surreal disjunction might gratify the soi-disant Lady Gaga of tennis. Certainly she seemed thoroughly pleased with the resulting look. She posed and preened for the paparazzi. Two hours and 16 minutes later, however, they would have required shutter speeds faster than a chameleon's tongue to capture her furious exit from the court -- and the tournament.

She did well to drag herself back into the match after looking down and out in the second set. And there is no mistaking a feisty, assertive quality in her game.

But all this elaborate, self-conscious garb inevitably invites the suspicion, however supercilious, that she might be better off trying to be a tennis player first, and a pop icon second.

She certainly has ability, and it was tremendous at last to see someone immune to the modern dread of the net. Whereas so many players seem convinced that the middle of the court has been laid with mines, she galloped in from the baseline on the slightest pretext. If she managed a satisfactory rendezvous with the ball, moreover, she might flay it into the corner or stun it dead.

Regrettably, she proved equally capable of dabbing it lamely into the net -- as she did, this time from the baseline, when Doi had dropped her racket as the first set reached its climax. That gave Doi set point, and Mattek-Sands obliged her with a double fault.

Even after this, her exuberance made it seem legitimate to discover, in her quizzical expression when facing serve, some secret amusement. At 4-2 down in the second, however, she acquired an overdue look of thunder, a determined dimple in her chin.

In turning the set round, she was irresistible, chasing lost causes and being not so much ferocious as homicidal in her winners.

Ultimately, however, it proved culpable to have been seduced by all the studied exoticism on one side of the net. Even as Mattek-Sands appeared to have all the momentum, Doi showed pluck to match a verve of her own, eventually grinding out a 6-4 5-7 7-5 success.

Mattek-Sands proved an obedient foil. She shrieked some graceless complaint about a line-call, smashed a ball away, barely brushed Doi's hand and did not even glance at the umpire as she scurried away. Her jacket, by now, did not just look silly. It looked really rather sad.

Meanwhile, Venus Williams recovered from a shaky start to beat 40-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm 6-7 6-3 8-6. The Japanese veteran surged into a 5-1 lead and although Williams fought back to force a tiebreak, Date-Krumm won it 8-6 on her fifth set point.

Williams improved as the match wore on but Date-Krumm refused to lie down. Williams made the decisive break in the 14th game of the final set.

"It was tough," Williams said. "She plays so well, every ball hits the baseline. I'm delighted to come through."

Second seed Vera Zvonareva survived a scrappy second set to march on with a 6-1 7-6 win over fellow Russian Elena Vesnina.

Defending men's champion Rafa Nadal had his fans drooling with another muscle-bulging display of brilliance to crush Ryan Sweeting 6-3 6-2 6-4. "This is the best court in the world. It's a pleasure always to play here," he said.

Andy Murray progressed with a routine 6-3 6-3 7-5 win over German Tobias Kamke. The fourth seed continued the fluent form which brought him the Queen's title this month.

Frenchman Richard Gasquet saw off Igor Kunitsyn of Russia 6-1 6-4 6-4, while Czech Tomas Berdych overcame France's Julien Benneteau 6-1 6-4 6-2, and. Andy Roddick eased past Romania's Victoria Hanescu 6-3 6-3 6-4. (©Independent News Service)

Wimbledon,

Live, BBC2 12.0/TG4 11.55

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