Continued from page 1

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.

“The most important thing for a player in these interruptions and rain delays is not to get frustrated mentally, because it’s a very fine line. … Your intensity is there, and suddenly they call it off,” said Djokovic, who is ranked and seeded No. 1 as he bids to complete a career Grand Slam.

“So it’s not easy warming up, cooling off, getting tape, putting off the tape, taking a shower or not taking a shower,” he said. “It’s unpredictable.”

Coming out of a rain delay already down a set but ahead 4-3 in the second, Mattek-Sands reeled off seven consecutive games against Li, the only Chinese player to win a Grand Slam singles title and twice the Australian Open runner-up.

Down 5-0 in the third set, Li made one last stand, taking two games in a row. But Mattek-Sands steeled herself and served out the match on her second attempt, raising both arms overhead after a forehand by Li hit the top of the net and didn’t make it over.

When a reporter wanted to know if she’d been bothered by an illness or injury, Li replied: “Why do you ask me that? Because I lose the match?”

She won both previous meetings against Mattek-Sands, including in straight sets last month on clay at Stuttgart, Germany.

“A little bit surprised … today, the way she’s hitting,” said Li, who has bowed out in the first or second round at half of the eight major tournaments since winning her trophy in Paris.

Mattek-Sands lost before the third round in 24 of her previous 26 Grand Slam appearances, the exceptions being a fourth-round run at Wimbledon in 2008 and a third-round showing at the French Open in 2011.

One difference nowadays is she travels with a list of about two dozen items she avoids eating because of allergies, including gluten and dairy, but also pineapple, peaches, tomatoes and garlic.

There’s also this: After preparing for matches by listening to music (rapper Macklemore of “Thrift Shop” fame is a current favorite), Mattek-Sands focuses from shot to shot and sticks to her tactics better than before.

“Every point is a new point. I have a plan and a purpose each point,” said Mattek-Sands, who now plays 118th-ranked qualifier Paula Ormaechea of Argentina. “I know where I want to hit my serve and where I want to hit my return. I know, basically, my game plan.”

Being able to count on her body helps, too, of course.

Adam kept believing in her. I believed in her. And we finally found answers with the nutrition side and the rehab side of things. Whatever we’re doing now seems to be working, so we’re going to stick with it,” Justin Sands said. “If she can stay healthy and continue to do what she’s doing, she can beat anybody.”

Mattek-Sands — who was born in Minnesota, lived in Wisconsin (“I’m a Packers fan ‘til the day I die,” she says) and now calls Arizona home — has often gained more attention for her fashion choices than her forehand. The metallic gold Wonder Woman ensemble. The argyle cowboy hat. The leopard-print shorts. The eye-black patches. The knee-high black compression socks she wore Thursday are to help circulation, not start conversation, Mattek-Sands explained.

Story Continues →