Remember the knee-high socks? The white fringed bomber jacket decorated with spray-painted white tennis balls? The war paint and the one-sleeved dress? Bethanie Mattek-Sands, aka the Lady Gaga of the tennis world, has long been known as a flamboyant player who will push the limits with her non-traditional outfits. This year at Wimbledon she has become even more innovative in her outlook. Literally.
Earlier this season the WTA introduced her to Google Glass – the hands-free headset that looks like a pair of glasses but functions in a similar way to a smart phone or computer, serving as a training aid, a to-do list, appointments diary, video camera and web browser – and the girl from Minnesota is the first to say it’s a good fit. “Everything in my life is pushed to the limit. I always have millions of things to do and Glass helps me keep organised so I can focus on my tennis,” she explains with a swish of her 2013 Wimbledon blue and green hair.
One of Google's Glass Explorers, Mattek-Sands gave the glasses fashion credence by wearing them to the WTA pre-Wimbledon red carpet party, and she's been wearing them around the grounds at Wimbledon. “All of the players at Wimbledon have been asking about them,” she says.
When you wear the glasses, you see a tiny screen in the top right-hand corner of your right lens which features various functions. For a tennis player, travelling the world from tournament to tournament, often living out of a suitcase, the mini-screen can serve as a packing list, a diary, an itinerary reminder and as a live travel alert. On arrival in London for The Championships, for example, Mattek-Sands was super-organised on an hour-by-hour basis. In the corner of her vision was an everpresent list of appointments and reminders: hang out with X, hair appointment at Y, pick up credentials, practice, and so on.
The no-hands factor has made tasks like packing and cooking simple. Mattek-Sands, who prepares a lot of her own food because of food allergies, can google recipes and efficiently follow the instructions without averting her gaze from the kitchen counter.
Glass has been particularly useful in helping the familiarisation-with-grass process. The first day on grass is hell, the ball bounces differently, the timing is different… but coach and charge can analyse the angles, the bounce, her ball toss, etcetera, to be as prepared as possible. “When I initially found out about [the glasses] I thought video-ing from the vantage point of when I'm practicing or hitting a ball would be so cool, to see what my eyes see,” she said.
On the practice courts, Mattek-Sands records spurts of hitting sessions, helping her analyse contact point, split-step timing and head positioning. “You’re always looking for that extra edge to make you play better and seeing the video, you get viewpoints that have never been accessed before,” she said. “My coach really likes the viewpoint. We look at it on the computer and it’s a cool training tool.”
“The way I approach all my matches is the same. Whether it’s Wimbledon or playing in my back yard, I put in all the preparation right up to that point where I’m visualising what I want to do on court.”
Off-court, the potential of google glass in tennis is huge. Fans sitting courtside could one day be able to see match statistics, videotape points to share on social media sites, or even tune in to watch a player from that player's point of view.