Commentary

Mattek-Sands getting it done on court

Updated: May 25, 2011, 5:53 PM ET
By Ravi Ubha | ESPN.com

PARIS -- There was a moment in Bethanie Mattek-Sands' news conference when a journalist actually had to apologize for asking a tennis question.

Yes, the focus was very much on attire in a city famed for its fashion -- and fashionable residents.

The twist for Mattek-Sands on Wednesday as she beat fellow U.S. resident Varvara Lepchenko? For the first time, the eye black she's sported for much of the season featured her signature. The latter was all white, making for a somewhat zebra effect.

Don't be surprised to see purple or orange next.

"It's kind of her brand," husband, Justin, said shortly after her match. "Obviously [Roger] Federer wears his logo, Rafa [Nadal] wears his and this is kind of one of her beginning-stage logos. It's something she helped design."

And Mattek-Sands, long considered the player with the most daring dress sense on court, is thinking of adding to her array of tattoos with a design on her upper thigh. Peers generally don't like the idea, but that won't stop the 26-year-old from still pondering.

An English reporter asked Mattek-Sands, who also donned a black cap, pink top and her customary high socks, what she planned to do at Wimbledon, where predominantly white clothing is the rule.

She chuckled.

"Yeah, I don't think I can really challenge the color rule right now," she said. "I got to figure something out. I'll be wearing my high socks. But you know what, I haven't even got there yet."

Mattek-Sands indeed has more work to do at Roland Garros after downing Lepchenko 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 to become the first American woman to reach the third round -- not including a Williams sister -- since 2006. Lepchenko, a left-hander, donned some accessories, too, as both knees and a thigh were taped.

Her next challenger, fading former No. 1 Jelena Jankovic, is one of Mattek-Sands' good friends on the circuit and a pro who also likes to tinker with outfits.

Mattek-Sands employed the tactics that saw her reach the quarterfinals in Madrid and down veteran clay-courter Flavia Pennetta, Lepchenko's victim in the first round here, in Rome: going after returns, be it first or second serve, and being aggressive, trying to take the ball early.

She suffered a lapse in the second set, dropping the final four games, before altering the momentum by racing to a 3-0 lead in the third. Mattek-Sands was the crowd favorite throughout; two of her supporters were world-class surfers Lee-Ann Curren and Sally Fitzgibbons. Curren gave Mattek-Sands lessons last week in Biarritz, France.

Only once before has Mattek-Sands, whose career was derailed by a serious hip injury, ventured to a third round at a major, going a stage further at Wimbledon in 2008. Mattek-Sands, world No. 34, will surpass Venus Williams, inactive, as the U.S. No. 2 when the new rankings are released June 6.

Jankovic owns a mediocre 8-10 record against top-40 opposition this season.

"It's cool that she is very relaxed and outgoing and just seems to enjoy tennis," Mattek-Sands said. "Even in the locker room she's laughing, talking. You can always hear her. I think it'll be a good match. She likes the clay. I've got to be ready."

Here are four other snippets from Wednesday's action:

Wozniacki acts her age: Caroline Wozniacki is only 20, so you can forgive her for being, at times, petulant. But acting the way she did against Aleksandra Wozniak won't win her any friends.

After the chair umpire inspected a mark in the second-set tiebreaker of Wozniacki's 6-3, 7-6 (6) win, the Dane didn't like the ruling, which went against her. She conversed with the ump for what appeared to be minutes, demanding that the linesperson who was on the baseline pick out the mark on her lob in question. Her objections continued even as dad Piotr urged her to forget about it and move on.

Wozniacki acted similarly against Yanina Wickmayer in Rome.

Wozniacki won't win the tournament based on this form. Down 5-2 in the tiebreak, she was run ragged to such an extent that it appeared a junior was facing a prolific pro.

French fun: The last Frenchman to win the French Open was Yannick Noah in 1983.

Will the drought end in 2011? Probably not, but the three top hopes -- Richard Gasquet, Gael Monfils and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga -- won.

Gasquet, encouraged by loud chants of "Richard, Richard" on kids' day, executed one of the shots of the tournament against Marcel Granollers, countering a smash with a sweet backhand down the line.

Monfils struggled again, no surprise given his recent spell on the sideline, needing four sets to dispatch unheralded countryman Guillaume Rufin. Another worry: The 2008 semifinalist tweaked his hamstring in the second set.

Tsonga comfortably downed Igor Andreev in a battle of big forehands.

Crying game: Tears are nothing new in a Vera Zvonareva match. Only this time, it was her opponent who broke down.

Sabine Lisicki, the huge-hitting German who appeared to be over her injury woes, wept on the court deep in the third set of a 4-6, 7-5, 7-5 loss to the third seed. She needed to be taken off the court on a stretcher for what might have been lower back and leg injuries, crying uncontrollably in distressing scenes.

Lisicki, who left the court in a wheelchair at the 2009 U.S. Open after an ankle injury, blew a match point at 5-2 in the third. At 5-4, she slumped in her chair as her blood pressure was taken.

Babolat's OK for David: Nadal was politically correct when drawn about the new Babolat balls being used at the French Open -- he's sponsored by the company.

Fellow Spaniard David Ferrer, not sponsored by Babolat, appears to be just fine with them.

On Monday, he didn't seem convinced.

"They're perfectly [suited for] my game," said Ferrer, the world No. 7 who thrashed another Frenchman, Julien Benneteau. "They're very fast, and I think they're perfect."

London-based Ravi Ubha covers soccer and tennis for ESPN.com. You can follow him on Twitter.

London-based Ravi Ubha covers soccer and tennis for ESPN.com.