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VIDEO Wimbledon 2017: Traumatic injury for Mattek-Sands brings back flashes of Mary Pierce

FEATURED COLUMNIST
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07 Jul 2017, 13:00 IST

Doubles World No. 1 Bethanie Mattek Sands entered Wimbledon 2017 as a singles wildcard. Top seeded in the doubles with partner Lucie Safarova – the two are fondly known as ‘Bucie’, Mattek Sands took an inspired Round 1 win over Magda Linette, and had leveled at a set all against Romania’s Sorana Cirstea when the unthinkable happened.

Taking one of the worst falls we’ve seen in sport – and not just tennis, Mattek-Sands lay on the court clutching her knee and shouting in agony as her opponent Cirstea jumped over the net in the next ten seconds. 

Mattek-Sands received medical attention in under 30 seconds, with an ambulance on the grounds taking her off roughly a minute later. But clearly in blinding pain by this point, the American ace struggled as she was moved onto a stretcher by the EMTs. 

Believed by many to be a fairly common sporting injury – an ACL tear, her injury looks far more serious on inspection. Her kneecap looks to be completely dislocated, and it is very likely she has ruptured her patellar tendon, which is what connects the kneecap to the shin bone. 

An ACL injury – ACL stands for Anterior Cruciate Ligament – is painful enough on its own; the ACL is one of the key ligaments that connects the femur to the tibia – on either side of the kneecap. 

Experts have alleged that Mattek-Sands’ knee dislocation could potentially have severed her ACL altogether – and with it damaged her MCL, or medial collateral ligament, which stabilizes the knee and helps it rotate. 

There has been no official statement from Mattek-Sands’ camp as to the extent of her injury, which has led some to believe it might be more serious than previously thought. Official footage on closer inspection also confirms that it was more than a simple dislocation, also indicated by how much pain Mattek-Sands was visibly in.

Is this career-ending?

The answer to that question is maybe, maybe not. Mattek-Sands is one of the fittest tennis players around – she is, after all, the World No. 1 in the doubles – although at 32, she is still relatively young in terms of recovery. 

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That said, this is quite the complex injury and could well take upto a year in terms of post-surgery recovery, rehabilitation and physiotherapy. Pain management will perhaps be Mattek-Sands’ first point post surgery – on which we have no comment so far.

The extent of the reactions from both Mattek-Sands’ rival Cirstea and the American’s partner Lucie Safarova, both of whom were crying by the side of the court upon seeing the injuries, also indicate that it is very serious.

Shades of Mary Pierce

French ace Mary Pierce, who was commentating on the match when the incident happen, reacted with shock – and she knows all too well exactly what it feels like. Only 1 years ago, the then 32-year-old – the same age as Mattek-Sands is now, was up triple match point to Vera Zvonareva 6-4, 6-5 at the Generali Ladies Linz when she landed badly on her leg and tore her ACL. 

The first to help Pierce on that occasion was in fact Zvonareva, who held an ice pack to her rival’s knee as medical teams found their way onto court. Although the French player said she was not ready to retire just yet, she sat out 2007 and attempts to return in the 2008 season proved unfruitful.

Two-time Grand Slam winner and former World No. 3 Pierce has since been a regular on the commentary circuit. 

Her injuries, as serious as they were, did not look to be as serious as those Mattek-Sands has now suffered – so it would be unfair to speculate on her return just yet. 

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