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French Open: American tops Li Na; Novak Djokovic advances

Published May 30, 2013 8:51 am

French Open • Mattek-Sands rallies past sixth-seeded Li Na in second round.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Paris • There were moments, as recently as last year, when a body that would not stay healthy and on-court results prompted Bethanie Mattek-Sands to wonder whether it was simply time to call it a career after more than a decade as a professional tennis player.

"She was ready to quit," her husband, Justin Sands, recalled. "She was like, 'I'm done. I can't do it. I don't want to come back.' "

Instead, Mattek-Sands "stuck it out," in her words, making some significant changes — to her diet after discovering a host of food allergies, to her point-to-point focus. And at age 28, in her 27th Grand Slam tournament, Mattek-Sands earned her most significant victory to date, a 5-7, 6-3, 6-2 upset of 2011 champion Li Na at the rain-soaked French Open on Thursday to join four other American women in the third round.

"I know how I can play, and, you know, there were times when I just physically couldn't do it," the 67th-ranked Mattek-Sands said, "and I think that's really frustrating."

There was hip surgery less than a week after her wedding in late 2008, a torn shoulder in 2011, a broken right big toe in 2012.

Her ranking plummeted from a best of 30th to outside the top 200. She found herself playing in the sport's minor leagues and going through qualifying just to get into tournaments.

And now?

"She can take more enjoyment out of it, out of playing," said her coach, Adam Altschuler. "We've got to go do it the day after this and the day after that. But it's great for her to show the world she's this good."

Only 18 of 32 scheduled singles matches were completed, with two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka and 2011 U.S. Open champion Sam Stosur among the winners. Six were suspended in progress — defending champion Maria Sharapova led Canada's Eugenie Bouchard by a set and a break when they stopped — and eight were postponed entirely, including Rafael Nadal against Slovakia's Martin Klizan.

Last year's runner-up to Nadal, Novak Djokovic, gestured at the dark, threatening sky between points, as if to admonish the clouds for even considering halting play before he could finish a 6-2, 6-0, 6-2 victory over 83rd-ranked Guido Pella of Argentina. —

Highlights

O Bethanie Mattek-Sands, 28, becomes the fourth U.S. woman to reach the third round. In her 27th Grand Slam tournament, Mattek-Sands beats sixth-seeded Li Na 5-7, 6-3, 6-2.

• Top-ranked Novak Djokovic wins in straight sets and plays Bulgaria's Grigor Dimitrov — who has beaten Djokovic this season — in the third round.