"January 29, 2012, 6:45 pm
For Mattek-Sands, a Loss Turns Into a Win
By BEN ROTHENBERG
Greg Wood/Agence France-Presse — Getty ImagesBethanie Mattek-Sands hitting a return against Leander Paes and Elena Vesnina in the mixed doubles final.
MELBOURNE — Few players win their first Grand Slam title because they lost on the first day of the tournament, but that’s exactly what happened to the Minnesota-born Arizona resident Bethanie Mattek-Sands.
Mattek-Sands paired with Horia Tecau of Romania to beat Elena Vesnina of Russia and Leander Paes of India, 6-3, 5-7, 10-3, in the Australian Open mixed doubles final, capping off an improbable run to the final with her first Grand Slam title of any kind.
Mattek-Sands said that had she won her first-round singles match (a three-set loss to No. 8 seed Agnieszka Radwanska), she would not have signed up for the mixed doubles event at all. Because of that loss, she is now a Grand Slam champion.
After winning the title on their first championship point, Mattek-Sands jumped in the air five times before hugging Tecau (who had only jumped once).
Mattek-Sands called the victory the top accomplishment of her career and was especially proud of her finish, despite having her serve broken twice late in the second set.
“You know, I have been in a couple singles finals in WTA events and haven’t been able to close it out,” Mattek-Sands said after the match. “So I think finally closing one out feels awesome.”
For the final, Mattek-Sands, who has been called the Lady Gaga of Tennis, chose a tennis-ball-colored long-sleeved top from which her husband, Justin Sands, had cut off the right sleeve, in order to show off her colorful arm tattoos. She had worn a checkered headband that she had received from the Australian Pat Cash during warm-ups, but switched into a black hat by the start of play.
Mattek-Sands had more intensive mixed-doubles preparation than most heading into the tournament, having previously competed at the mixed-doubles-centric Hopman Cup tournament in Perth with her fellow Minnesotan Mardy Fish.
Like Mattek-Sands, Tecau had never won a Grand Slam title, having lost the men’s doubles finals at Wimbledon in 2010 and 2011 with Robert Lindstedt. His win Sunday made him the first Romanian to win a Grand Slam since Virginia Ruzici won singles and women’s doubles at the 1978 French Open.
Probably, the only American to win a 2012 Australian Open Grand Slam that I know of! I could be wrong too since I did not check the draw finals!