By Matt Cronin, special to USTA.com
PARIS - Mixed doubles events at the Grand Slams have traditionally produced some odd pairings and improbable winners, as many top doubles players enter at the last minute, and because mixed events are only held at the majors, there isn't that much consistency in teams.
But for the most part at Roland Garros over the past two decades, only a couple of lesser known names have come through to win the title, which made American Scott Lipsky and Aussie Casey Dellacqua's run to the 2011 crown more impressive. The combination of the quiet and big-serving American and the extroverted and backhand-slapping Aussie turned out to be a more than effective one, as they stymied top seeds Katarina Srebotnik and Nenad Zimonjic 7-6, 4-6, 10-7 (super tiebreaker) to win their first Grand Slam title.
Lipsky, a former All-American at Stanford, has been waiting for this day since the time he was a kid slapping balls around his club courts on Long Island, but he wasn't sure it was going to happen.
"Maybe in some of my wildest dreams, but not in my average dreams," said the 29-year-old. "It's amazing. I never even hit a ball on that court [Philippe Chatrier] until I stepped out there for the warm-up today. It's something that I dreamt about since I was a kid, winning a Grand Slam title. I don't think I dreamt about winning it in a mixed,but it's great."
Lipsky and Dellacqua had played Wimbledon together a couple of years ago, but shortly after that the left-handed Dellacqua wrecked her shoulder and has spent much of the two years rehabbing it, so their partnership was temporarily shelved.
But Dellacqua used her special ranking to get into the tournament and they decided to team up again, this time to great success. Amazingly, they won seven tiebreakers in five matches and in the final, out-struck and out-thought a team with a load of experience.
"We stepped up when it mattered," Dellacqua. "We were always gonna walk off the court knowing we went for it. We went for it, and we've got a Grand Slam title."
After he graduated from Stanford in 2003, Lipsky paired up in doubles with his Cardinal teammate, David Martin and the two had a fair amount of success during the next five years, winning one title and reaching four finals. Lipsky stopped playing singles in 2006 as he could not push his ranking into the top 300, and he realized he could make a better living by just playing doubles in the tour's top events rather than grinding it out in singles in the Futures and Challengers.
He's currently playing doubles with fellow American Rajeev Ram and the two have already won three titles together and reached the quarterfinals at Roland Garros. He's hit his stride later in his career, but has a long memory for how tough it was to make it to the big show in the first few years while he was not making much money and trying to scratch out a living.
"You watch these matches on TV and you wish that someday you can be there," said Lipsky who was married to his now wife, Marie, last summer and lives in Southern California. "To be on the stage playing, in a Grand Slam final and to come out with a win and to say now for the rest of my life that I'm a Grand Slam champion, it's amazing. It hasn't sunk in. Hopefully eventually it will."
The 26-year-old Dellacqua also had to earn her way up the ladder and after a terrific 2008 where she reached the fourth round of the Aussie Open in singles, cracked the top 40 and became a national sensation, her body began to break down. The long road to rehabilitation seemed endless. That's why she broke into a grin as wide as continental Australia on Thursday night.
"To be honest, three months ago I was playing challengers in Australia, just playing doubles thinking I wasn't even going to be playing at the French Open," she said. "So I've exceeded anything that I thought I would achieve right at this point."
Not every mixed team gets along together as at times the partnership is no more than a temporary business arrangement. Those partnerships can quickly fail, but Dellacqua and Lipsky seem to get along with each other on court and off.
"Besides her backhand we pretty much have the same type of personality: just really relaxed, dry sense of humor, just try and take it easy on the court and not take things too seriously and not get into our own heads too much," he said. "It makes it nice and relaxing on the court. You don't have to feel like when the other player is under so much stress it makes you stressed. Just a relaxed attitude of the Aussies. It's nice.
Dellacqua appreciates Lipsky's dry sense of humor and calls him very funny. She said that she appreciates that he had her back at the net, but more than anything, she can sense that he can empathize with her struggles.
"I know how hard he would have worked through the Challengers," she said. "I have done all that, as well. It's really awesome for us to come together and win a Grand Slam title. So it's nice to share it with someone that has been through a lot of what I've been through as well."