Self-styled Lady Gaga flounces off after unfashionable defeat

Flamboyant Mattek-Sands fails to live up to her own billing as the American exits with graceless complaint

How 'bout that? They went to see a fashion parade on Court 14, and a tennis match broke out.

Bethanie Mattek-Sands arrived for her second-round tie with Misaki Doi wearing a jacket that could only be described as explosive. That is to say, it appeared to be in the very process of exploding. The fabric – predominately white, of course – was ludicrously frilled and festooned in tennis balls. It looked not unlike an igloo, presumably one in which someone had cut a hole in the ice below. For the quickest way to catch a fish, as everyone knows, is to drop a grenade in the water.

Mattek-Sands was also sporting trademark black stripes above her cheekbones. This may look another affectation, but is apparently borrowed from the NFL, where it is said to reduce glare. Be that as it may, it made her look exactly as though some practical joker had purloined Hercule Poirot's moustache, and placed it beneath her eyes while she was sleeping.

Perhaps that kind of surreal disjunction might gratify the soi-disant Lady Gaga of her sport. Certainly she seemed thoroughly pleased with the resulting look. She posed and preened for the paparazzi. Two hours and 16 minutes later, however, they would have required shutter speeds faster than a chameleon's tongue to capture her furious exit from the court – and the tournament.

It has become the personal crusade of Mattek-Sands to redress the consensus that the women's tour lacks both calibre and characters. What her performance here seemed to demonstrate is a failure to recognise the nexus between the two as character, pure and simple.

That is a little harsh, as she did well to drag herself back into the match after looking down and out in the second set. And there is no mistaking a feisty, assertive quality in her game, which has moments of terrific dynamism. But all this elaborate, self-conscious display – and those judging her outfit here must take into consideration a series of previous offences – inevitably invites the suspicion, however supercilious, that she might be better off trying to be a tennis player first, and a rock icon second.

She certainly has ability, which is in notoriously scarce supply in the American game. Having reached No 31 in the world, she is ranked below only the Williams sisters among her compatriots. Maddeningly, however, she contrived to squander some classic grass-court play against one of those remorseless, east-west baseliners who seem to have numbed so many of the herbivores into submission.

To that extent, incongruously enough, Mattek-Sands has the potential to become a darling of the old school. They could not possibly consider her especially elegant, in her movement, but it was tremendous at last to see someone immune to the modern dread of the net. Whereas so many players seem convinced that the middle of the court has been laid with mines, she galloped in from the baseline on the slightest pretext. If she managed a satisfactory rendezvous with the ball, moreover, she might flay it into the corner or stun it dead. Regrettably, she proved equally capable of dabbing it lamely into the net – as she did, this time from the baseline, when Doi had dropped her racket as the first set reached its climax. That gave Doi set point, and Mattek-Sands obliged her with a double fault.

Even after this, her exuberance made it seem legitimate to discover, in her quizzical expression when facing serve, some secret amusement. At 2-4 down in the second, however, she acquired an overdue look of thunder, a determined dimple in her chin. In turning the set round, she was irresistible, chasing lost causes and not so much ferocious as homicidal in her winners.

Ultimately, however, it proved culpable to have been seduced by all the studied exoticism on one side of the net. Even as Mattek-Sands appeared to have all the momentum, Doi showed pluck to match a verve of her own. Both women were execrable on their second serve, barely managing to win one in three points between them. But when Doi sniffed her chance, at 6-5 in the decider, she took it with an inner conviction that exposed all the shallow strut in her opponent's wardrobe. First Doi lobbed her at the net; and then, on match point, she sent her scrambling forward to salvage a drop with an attempted lob of her own. It cleared the baseline, and finally Doi could shed her oriental reserve with a joyous celebration. She had won 6-4, 5-7, 7-5.

Mattek-Sands proved an obedient foil. She shrieked some graceless complaint about a line-call, smashed a ball away, barely brushed Doi's hand and did not even glance at the umpire as she scurried away. Her jacket, by now, did not just look silly. It looked really rather sad.

Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own