Mattek-Sands, girl from Neenah who drove Li Gaga

Bethanie Mattek-Sands of USA reacts after winning her second round match against Li Na of China at the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, 30 May 2013. -EPA

PARIS: She’s the girl from Neenah, Wisconsin, who sports garish leopard print dresses, knee-high football socks and cowboy hats on court while slapping thick, black paint beneath her eyes.

Brash American Bethanie Mattek-Sands is the self-styled Lady Gaga of tennis and on Thursday at a rain-deluged French Open, she sent Chinese star Li Na completely loco.

Mattek-Sands, who hails from America’s Midwest, but lives in Arizona with her accountant husband, stunned the 2011 champion, 5-7, 6-3, 6-2, to reach the third round at Roland Garros and add a little colour to a drab Paris day.

“It’s funny. I haven’t worn anything too crazy on court for a few years now,” insisted the 28-year-old, who has also been spotted in a cocktail dress made of tennis balls at a Wimbledon party.

“Off court, obviously, I had the Wimbledon player party dress last year. But other than that, I feel like my racquet has been doing a lot of the talking.

“You know, the socks, I mean, there is a reason They’re compression socks. I have bad circulation.”

Black knee-length socks were the order of the day on Thursday for her second round match against the world number six which, interrupted by two lengthy rain delays, started at just after 11 in the morning, but only finished at 5pm.

If the socks are on doctor’s orders, then some of Mattek-Sands’ other outfits should possibly carry health warnings.

Her fashion history includes being fined for wearing a striped cowboy hat during a match at the 2005 US Open and donning a leopard-print outfit at the same event.

At Wimbledon in 2006, she sported a football-themed ensemble, replete with football socks bought from Harrods for 10 ($ 15) the night before.

But out on Court One at Roland Garros on Thursday, she was almost subdued.

“I was staying warm because I had a nice neon tank underneath. But it was a little too chilly to take the long sleeve off,” she said.

Even officials have been entranced and mystified by her wardrobe.

“The chair umpire asked me the other day if I was missing my makeup,” she said when asked to explain the absence of her trademark black flashes beneath her eyes.

“It’s funny, because my fashion kind of goes with my moods. I do spur of the moment things and I might not do spur of the moment things. It’s all really random.”

Mattek-Sands, a former top 30 player, has struggled with injuries recently, even falling out of the top 200 in early 2013.

But she made the final in Kuala Lumpur and was a semi-finalist on clay in Stuttgart last month, where she lost to Li, after coming through qualifying.

Coming into Roland Garros at 67 in the world, she still has plenty of things on her mind more serious than fashion – her 26 food allergies.

“I did the test in the off season, and it came up that I had like 26 allergies. The main ones are gluten and dairy, but I had random ones like pineapple, peaches, papaya, tomatoes, garlic,” she explained.

“I have done well eating out in restaurants. It gets a little tricky especially when you don’t speak the language but it’s made a world of difference for me. I have more energy. I’m recovering better.

“I think one of the issues I had in the off season, I had a lot of inflammation in my blood markers and stuff, and that’s gone down because of the diet change. So really I feel like a different person since I have done that.” -AFP


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