Tuesday in the Desert

A few odds and ends from Indian Wells:

Bethanie Back

I ran into Bethanie Mattek-Sands a couple of days ago. The American is back after spending the last few months rehabbing a hip that bothered her all of last year, which was her best on tour (she finished 2008 at No. 39). Her last match was a finals loss to Nadia Petrova at Quebec City in early November and she hasn't played since.

Mattek-Sands, who turns 24 in a few days, told me she desperately wanted make her debut at Fed Cup last month in Surprise, Ariz., near her home in Phoenix, but she just wasn’t ready. The U.S. beat Argentina anyway. “I wasn’t healthy enough,” she said. “I couldn’t do that to my team.”

At Indian Wells, she won a match and then fell in the second round to Gisela Dulko, but she expects good things for the rest of the season now that she’s healthy. “I’m probably stronger and moving better than I have since I was 12," the style-bending dresser said. "It’s just a matter of me getting back into playing matches.” Mattek, who is now working with Kevin Arias (younger sibling of former top-10 player Jimmy Arias), says she thinks she can crack the top 20.

The other big change in her life: Mattek-Sands added a hyphen to her last name when she got hitched in November to Justine Sands, a former college football player at the University of Albany. “We were both actually dating other people at the time, so it was cool how it worked out,” said Sands. I snapped a pic of Mattek-Sands in her monster – and I mean monster – truck with her dog, Ruger (named after a brand of firearms). The Ford F-350 is 7’2” at the roof, has 40” tires and 10” suspension. I was intimidated just looking at the thing.

--Marat Safin, who lost to 6-9 ½ John Isner 6-4, 6-4 Tuesday, had this to say about the confounding game of his towering opponent: “It's just that I hated to play always against the big servers and the guys playing without any rhythm. They are playing one shot, one ball guess inside the court, and another one flies five meters out. So there is no game, so it's (hard) for me to get the rhythm from these players….You start to play with him, and eventually you end up playing like him, which is not his best game. It's a sad story. “

--Jan Silva, the now 7-year-old phenom, is doing well but has recently returned to the Sacramento area with his family after spending most of the last two years at the Mouratoglou Academy outside Paris. Mouratoglou is still high on Silva, but said it didn’t make sense for him to stay in Paris when family issues required that his parents return to the States.

--I caught up with Andy Ram about his experience in Dubai. Here’s the story.


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