No 2 seeds, Ena Shibahara & Wesley Koolhof won the French Open mixed doubles title on Thursday after only meeting for the first time on the eve of Roland Garros, thanks to a social media message.
we actually never met before, I just saw her a few times playing at the Slams and the Masters, so I knew what kind of game she had, and thought it would suit me very well. So that’s why I asked her, and very happy she said yes. So, yeah, and this is the crazy result in the end. Wesley Koolhof
The first 2022 champions in Paris were crowned after they defeated the unseeded pair of Norway’s Ul-rikke Eikeri & Joran Vliegen from Belgium, 7-6(5) 6-2 on the back of 26 winners for their first Grand Slam trophy.
Last month, Koolhof, who is from the Netherlands, sent Shibahara a direct message on Instagram to see if the Japanese doubles World No 8 was available for a shot at the title at Roland-Garros.
“Took her a while to respond back!” said the Dutch player. “But she said yes, and she was looking forward to playing.
“So we actually never met before, I just saw her a few times playing at the Slams and the Masters, so I knew what kind of game she had, and thought it would suit me very well.
“So that’s why I asked her, and very happy she said yes. So, yeah, and this is the crazy result in the end.”
Shibahara served out the victory over Eikeri & Vliegen to cap a sublime debut tournament together.
“It is a dream come true to win a Grand Slam title,” the delighted 24-year old said afterwards. “I’m still letting it sink in. I don’t think it really hit me yet.
“I grew up in a family of five and they would play doubles, and I’m the youngest, so I was always trying to fight for the spot to be the fourth player.
“When I started playing tennis we would play mixed doubles, it’s the first thing I played. So it’s extra special for me to win this mixed doubles.”
Rika Hiraki was the last Japanese woman to take the Paris mixed title with India’s Mahesh Bhu-pathi in 1997.
Now Shibahara & Koolhof are Grand Slam champions for the very first time, lifting the mixed doubles trophy on Court Philippe-Chatrier ahead of the women’s singles semi-final matches, and thinking about celebrating but the Dutchman had a conundrum.
“I don’t know if you drink or not?” the men’s doubles World No 11 asked his partner.
“I’m driving home in a few hours, so I cannot really drink, or else my girlfriend [former top-10 star Julia Goerges] could drive, maybe.
“We definitely are going to celebrate it a little bit.”