WIMBLEDON, England — Bethanie Mattek-Sands promised Wimbledon had never seen anything like it. And she was right.
The 26-year-old American, known for her unusual fashion sense, arrived on court Wednesday for her first-round match wearing a white fringed jacket with 12 tennis balls cut in half stitched down each silver-studded sleeve.
She paused briefly to show off the Lady Gaga-inspired outfit for a throng of about 10 photographers who had gathered at Court 14, before spotting a look of concern on the face of a nearby tournament official.
“I’m not hitting any balls in it,” Mattek-Sands said. “Don’t worry … It’s too heavy to wear.”
Wimbledon’s rule book stipulates that “any competitor who appears on court dressed in a manner which is deemed unsuitable by the Committee will be liable to be defaulted.”
Mattek-Sands might have been wishing that had happened after a 6-4, 5-7, 7-5 loss to Misaki Doi of Japan.
Before the match, Mattek-Sands left the jacket draped over her chair to begin warming up. Underneath, she wore a white, skin-tight dress with one long sleeve and one short sleeve — revealing a tattooed arm — and her trademark knee-high socks.
Under her eyes, she wore black strips with a silver “B” painted on top. She claims the eye black, for which she recently signed an endorsement deal, has a practical purpose and “actually does reduce the glare.”
Mattek-Sands, who has spoken of her admiration for Lady Gaga, told her Twitter followers earlier in the day: “1st match on court 14. Make sure you’re there to see my Alex Noble Jacket when I get to the court! Wimby has never seen something like this!”
British designer Noble, who has collaborated with Lady Gaga, also designed a dress for Mattek-Sands’ appearance at the WTA’s Wimbledon party last week.
That number was fluorescent yellow, with yellow tennis balls stitched into the corset and a Mohican-style headpiece.
Noble described Mattek-Sands’ Wimbledon outfit as “a bit more street — an urban take on tennis and couture.”
Mattek-Sands has a reputation for testing the boundaries of tennis fashion. She was fined at the 2005 U.S. Open for wearing a cowboy hat onto court, but it didn’t prevent her from sporting a leopard-print outfit at the tournament a year later.
The Wimbledon Museum snapped up the World Cup-inspired outfit Mattek-Sands wore at the tournament in 2006. The 2011 jacket might soon follow.