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Lady Gaga of tennis
There was an uncharacteristic hush around an outside court at Wimbledon as Bethanie Mattek-Sands approached the lawns for her first round engagement. The gents shielded their eyes for a better view, while the ladies preferred to turn away. As the late afternoon sun gained in brightness, the artificial quiet gave way to gasps and giggles. The odd lip dipped in a polite smile. "She's creative, " said an elderly lady in a cable knit cardigan while her younger companion rolled her eyes and mouthed, "interesting".
The 26-year-old, who sports black, under-eye anti-glare patches, that adds to the menace of her on court ensemble, arrived at courtside in an tasselled bomber jacket with some two dozen tennis balls attached on either sleeve and the back. The American, who slipped out of her jacket, having earlier assured Grand Slam Supervisor Pam Whytcross that she wouldn't be "hitting a ball in it, " promptly flashed considerable muscle in a one-armed lycra tee. The two-piece whites were paired with kneelength socks that provided the school-girl effect that had few takers.
Bethanie, who travels with husband Justin Sands, said, "Fashion has always been super-interesting for me. I like to keep everyone on their toes. I think the fans that come to Wimbledon appreciate everything I do. It's more probably the members and the people higher up that are tut-tutting me. "
The flamboyant pro, who calls herself the Lady Gaga of the tennis tour, has actually put the American pop singer-song writer to shade with her own West-meets-weird sense of style.
Mattek-Sands, whose audacious outfits sometimes resemble circus attire, was slapped with a fine at the 2005 US Open for turning up in a stripped cowboy hat. A top doubles player, ranked 31 in singles, the sometimes volatile pro first caught the eye for her clothes at the New York Slam in 2004 for which she turned up in a leopard print outfit. Two years later, she arrived at Wimbledon in a soccer theme that included chandelier earrings and a headband. Then came the loosely draped beige top, with a crocheted waist and split sleeves that gave the attire the toga effect, a throwback to ancient Rome.
Mattek-Sands, 5 ft 6', who calls herself 'cheese head, ' enjoys Indian food and shares girlie giggles with Indian ace Sania Mirza in the lockerroom. Recently, the generously built pro turned to Lady Gaga's designer Alex Noble to help out or rather enhance her outrageous sense of style. Fittingly then, the fashion doublefault came at the 2011 pre-Wimbledon party last week. Mattek-Sands showed-up in a fluorescent green dress that featured tennis balls and was capped with a Mohican-style headgear. The shocking attire, that set tongues wagging at the posh Kensington Roof Gardens, was held together by a green chiffon base.
Mattek-Sands and Noble, who met up in Madrid and Copenhagen earlier this month to work on the idea of making the gown out of tennis balls, pulled off the shock and awe effect. Describing the head-turner, Noble said in an interview that the 'corset section' made of tennis balls, "is like an armour, which really suits Bethanie's personality".
A popular number by Lady Gaga, show business' queen of colour, goes thus: 'Don't hide yourself in regret, just love yourself and you're set, I'm on the right track, baby, I was born this way. ' To be sure Mattek-Sands, whose favourite adult drink is a concoction called 'Italian Wedding Cake', which she describes as "a little bit of amaretto, lemon, pineapple juice, coconut water and vanilla vodka, " isn't going down the regret route. When you're 20-something and turn up on a tennis court in knee-length shocking-pink socks, wearing the style rather than let it wear you, there can't be many should-I-shouldn't-I debates holding you back. In tennis, it's called going for the lines.
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