Nine-time Grand Slam doubles champion Bethanie Mattek-Sands was set to compete in the BNP Paribas Open in March. But the day before it started, she found out the tournament had been canceled.
The tournament, held at Indian Wells in Palm Springs, California, and known as the “fifth grand slam” in the tennis world because of its competitive field, was one of the first major sporting events called off due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Mattek-Sands, who captured the doubles title at Indian Wells in 2016, was at dinner in Palm Springs the night before matches were supposed to start when she heard the news. “I was waiting for the schedule to come out and then all of a sudden we got a message saying that the BNP Paribas Open had been canceled due to coronavirus,” the 35-year-old tells CNBC Make It. “That was the moment that everything hit us. … It was one of the earlier cancellations, and at the time, it was the biggest sporting event to be canceled, so at first you’re thinking, Is this a little exaggerated? … Looking back, it was the right thing to do.”
The next day, what was supposed to be day one of match play, felt “eerie,” Mattek-Sands remembers. “At that tournament, generally everyone is out in the grass training, it’s great weather, the fans are coming in. I went on site the next day and it was just a couple players and coaches wandering around aimlessly. We almost didn’t know what to do. We didn’t know what the next step was.”
Not knowing if more tournaments would be canceled, players had to decide between staying to train at Palm Springs for a few days, making preparations to travel to the site of their next tournament or booking flights home. Mattek-Sands stayed in Palm Springs a few days to fulfill sponsorship appearances and photoshoots before driving back to her home in Phoenix, Arizona.
A few days later, the Miami Open, scheduled for a week after the BNP Paribas Open, was canceled — and less than a month later, Wimbledon, considered the sport’s most prestigious tournament, was canceled for the first time since World War II in 1945. Mattek-Sands was supposed to compete in both.
As of now, all of pro tennis is suspended until July 13, what would have been the day after Wimbledon finished.
What her daily routine looks like now
Mattek-Sands has been self-isolating in Phoenix with her husband Justin and her hitting partner Ettore for the past two and a half months. Ettore is from Italy, one of the countries hit hardest by the pandemic, and hasn’t been able to travel home yet.
“One of the things that has helped me through this phase is keeping a schedule,” Mattek-Sands says. “Even though I know I can work out at any point in my day, I set a time that I want to get this workout in by. I set times when I’m waking up and having breakfast. Finding a few things you can stick to in your daily routine is helpful when there’s a lot of uncertainty and your scheduling is really off.”
Her morning routine starts around 7 a.m. She spends an hour to herself, meditating, journaling and reading. She calls it her “power hour” and doesn’t look at any emails or texts during this time.
Breakfast in quarantine has been consistent: chocolate chip pancakes and a cup of Italian roast coffee.
After breakfast, she’ll head to the gym in her garage to do an hour-long warm-up and some exercises before hitting the courts. She has access to a private court and is able to practice in isolation with her hitting partner. She spends between two and two and half hours on the court honing her game and experimenting with some technical changes. “Now is a perfect opportunity to invest in some changes,” Mattek-Sands says. “Usually tennis players never have this amount of time, so it’s fun to test things out. If you fail or if it’s not the right change, you go back. You have time.”
Her post-practice lunch is typically Italian food, which Ettore likes to prepare.
Mattek-Sands uses any downtime between workouts to do social media engagement, record Instagram Live videos and film for Tennis United, a digital video series she co-hosts that features interviews and discussions with other pro players.
The athlete logs her third workout of the day in the afternoon.
Then, “it’s happy hour,” she says, which is also when the tennis champion can satisfy her competitive drive through lawn games like cornhole and badminton. “I’m determined to become the best backyard athlete ever,” she says.
In the evening, she’ll take her dog for a walk and spend a little more time doing social media before turning off her phone for bed. “I like to shut it all down at some point,” she says. “Otherwise, we could be on social media scrolling for hours on end.”
With 27 career doubles titles, $7.8 million in career prize money and a handful of sponsorship deals, Mattek-Sands is among the lucky few professionals who don’t have to worry about the absence of prize money right now due to the suspension of the tour.
“Tennis is not a contract sport and we really rely on the WTA and ATP tours to be up and running so players can earn prize money to make a living,” she says. “Right now, that’s on hold. You have a lot of players that are not sure what they’re going to do.”
Her advice to players out of work right now is to use their skills to their advantage: “There are opportunities out there. We can do a lot of different things as athletes — we can speak, we can mentor, we can coach. First, relax and breathe. And know that there are options.”