© Ella Ling

Tennis balls

Lady Gaga of tennis: how to dress to impress


How to dress to impress at Wimbledon:
Bethanie Mattek-Sands has been called The Lady Gaga of Tennis (“and I would consider wearing a dress made out of meat, as she did”). Her on-court outfits have included cowboy hats, a lot of leopard skin, and NFL-style anti-glare patches under her eyes, and last year she cut off a sleeve to show off the tattoo on her arm. She also appeared at last year’s pre-Wimbledon party wearing a dress made out of tennis balls. The American, who is playing in the doubles tournament with India’s Sania Mirza, shares her tips on how to dress to impress on and off the court. 
Be bold. “It’s a huge compliment that people call me The Lady Gaga of tennis. She has rocked some stuff. She’s worn some bizarre stuff, and people say, ‘how innovative, wow’. I would wear a dress made out of meat, like Lady Gaga did, but I guess it’s tough as it’s already been done, so it’s tough to repeat something like that. The ingeniousness of that, it’s pretty fascinating for me. I remember reading a magazine which had photos of her best outfits, and she had some pretty crazy stuff, so creative. I love what she does, but I don’t think I could wear some of it on court. I still need to go on the court, to be able to sweat and move, so I can’t be as extreme as she is.”
Don’t wear the same thing twice. “My husband, Justin, thought that I should bring the tennis balls dress again this year, but I said: ‘No, you can’t wear something like that two years in a row’. You just can’t. You can bring it back, years down the road, as then it’s vintage. Working with the fashion designer last year, I had a blast. He didn’t know what he was getting into, using tennis balls as a material. I think it turned out well. It was unique. I still have the dress at home and the jacket. I’ve had people come to the house to try it on. The Wimbledon Museum have asked for it. They want it. But it’s kind of special to me. I’m keeping it for now. The year that I wore knee-high socks at Wimbledon, they asked for those after the match, and I gave those to them. I was playing Venus on Centre Court and I thought I was in trouble, as they came up to me and said: ‘Hey, we need to talk to you about your outfit’. I thought I was about to get fined. There was real relief when they said, ‘could you donate your outfit to the Museum?'”
There’s no harm in wearing things to win bets, or in just wearing the first thing you find in your suitcase. “I once wore a cowboy hat on court. That was a dare by an ex-boyfriend. He didn’t think I would do it. I was cut from my sponsor just before going to the Australian Open one year. I had all this stuff from the company with me and I was thinking, ‘I just got cut, I don’t want to wear this’ and so I had a dig around in my suitcase. The clothes I had with me, that’s what I wore on court. I played in the hat and got fined for it. I’m not sure whether I would do that again. I was fined a thousand bucks. They said it was non-tennis attire. I’ve worn a lot of leopard skin stuff. I had a hot-pink leopard skin dress. I’ve worn a leopard-print headband. My doubles partner Sania Mirza has said of my fashion sense, ‘No way could you pay me enough money to dress like Bethanie’. I would sometimes be randomly grabbing things to wear.”
Have fun with your fashion but don’t let it distract you once the match starts.  “Once I’m on the court, I don’t think about what I’m wearing. I’m there to win a tennis match. That’s what I train for, that’s what I do rehab for. Once I walk on the court, it’s all business. But when I’m having fun with me my outfits and my hair or tattoo, that’s my personality. and it’s relaxing. It gets my mind off the tennis, it’s fun, and then I focus once I get off the court. Tennis is always the No 1 priority, and fashion is just fun. If I didn’t play tennis, I would still be the same. But I make sure that everything fits okay and doesn’t restrict me in any way. If you start to worry about that, then it’s a distraction. With the cowboy hat. that was pinned in, so I could see everything.” 
Keep everyone guessing about what you’re going to wear. “I’ve done a ton of different things with my on-court outfits. I really like colour and that’s tough when you get to Wimbledon, as you have to work within it. So Wimbledon’s the toughest one to dress for as I’m a very colourful person. I cut the sleeve off my outfit last year so that you could see my tattoo. For me, I like keeping people on their toes so they don’t know what I’m going to be wearing. The players are always trying to find out what I’m wearing. They say that they like my outfits but would never wear them. It’s difficult for some players to be inventive as their clothing sponsors tell them what to wear. Sometimes when people get on the players about what they’re wearing, for not being inventive enough, you should really get on the sponsors.

“A lot of the girls, when you see them off court, they’re pretty cool with their fashion, and they’ve travelled everywhere and will have fashion influence from Europe, Asia and the United States. They all have style. But, on court, there is pressure from the sponsors. I’m just playing doubles at this Wimbledon. I love doubles and mixed doubles, but doubles are where my goals are, so it’s disappointing not to be playing singles. I might be a little boring for people this year. It’s funny as some of the players have already come up to me in the locker-room to ask me what I’m wearing. I show them this white shirt and they say, ‘that’s disappointing, Bethanie, this is boring’. Jeez, I have to keep it up.” 
Help others to improve their fashion sense. “I’ve brought some Union Jack and Saltire eye-blacks [the NFL-style anti-glare strips that you put on your cheeks] for Andy Murray.
I showed them to him the other day. I asked to have some made with his name on them, but they weren’t done in time. He was laughing. Maybe we can get Ivan Lendl to wear them.”