©Colette Lewis 2011--
Flushing Meadows, NY--
In the category of unexpected grand slam champions, it would be hard to top the fresh-faced pair that captured the 2011 mixed doubles trophy at the US Open. Nineteen-year-old Melanie Oudin and 18-year-old Jack Sock, a wild card entry playing together for the first time, beat No. 8 seeds Gisela Dulko and Eduardo Schwank of Argentina 7-6(4), 4-6, 10-8 Friday evening to give the United States its first championship of the tournament.
Playing on Arthur Ashe stadium, where both John Isner and Andy Roddick had fallen in the quarterfinals, Oudin and Sock lifted the spirits of the thousands of fans who stuck around looking for a more positive ending to their tennis day.
Starting slowly, Sock and Oudin fell behind 3-1, but got the break back in the sixth game, and in the tiebreaker, held the slimmest of leads, getting a mini-break when Schwank double faulted at 1-1. Sock and Oudin held serve giving themselves three set points at 6-3. Schwank saved one, but Oudin hit a clean forehand return winner off a Schwank second serve, a shot that energized the crowd even more.
The second set saw no breaks and not even a deciding point in the no-ad format. Although Sock had served well throughout the match, he was broken for the first time serving at 4-5, which meant he and Oudin would need to win their third match tiebreaker of the tournament to satisfy the fans.
They didn't get off to the best of starts, trailing 4-2 at the first changeover, but the chants of USA, USA seemed to have their effect. Oudin hit a running forehand winner that got them started and the teenagers went on to win five of the next six points to take a lead 7-5 at the second changeover.
Dulko then double faulted, which gave the Americans a little breathing room, and after a Dulko poach made it 8-6, Schwank missed a forehand return to give Sock and Oudin three match points.
Schwank saved two of them, although he needed an assist from Hawkeye on the first one, when his second serve was called out, but reversed on review.
At 9-8, the match hinged on Sock's serve, a situation that suited him just fine.
"I felt comfortable serving all week, so I think I was pretty positive about it and felt like I was probably hitting a good serve," said Sock.
He did, and Schwank, lunging for the ball, sent it just long. Sock dropped his racquet and ran to hug Oudin, while the crowd rose in unison to applaud the unlikely champions.
"For me it was a lot of fun," said Sock, who according to Oudin, kept the tension down all week with his jokes and comments. "I think that's kind of why we have been doing well this week. It's been like that all tournament for us, kind of just like playing loose, swinging, and having a good time. I think that's where the success came from, too."
Oudin, whose Cinderella run to the US Open quarterfinals in 2009 was the highlight of her grand slam participation until now, remarked on their good fortune in saving a match point in their first round contest against Vladimira Uhlirova and Filip Polasek, and their ability to keep that momentum.
"Sometimes like getting through that, a little bit lucky here and there, and who knows? You can end up winning the title," said Oudin.
Mixed doubles records are difficult to find and confirm, but at age 18, Sock is the youngest man to win a US Open mixed doubles title in the Open era, and their combined age of 37 is the same as that of Belarus' Max Mirnyi, who was 21, and American Serena Williams, who was 16 at the time of their championship in 1998.
The complete mixed doubles draw can be found at usopen.org.