PARIS -- No.2 seeds Ena Shibahara and Wesley Koolhof won the Roland Garros mixed doubles title on Thursday, defeating Ulrikke Eikeri and Joren Vliegen, 7-6(5), 6-2 in the final.
Shibahara, ranked No.8 in doubles, wins her first major title and becomes the first Japanese player in 25 years to win the mixed doubles championship in Paris. The California-born 24-year-old was not born when Rika Hiraki and Mahesh Bhupathi took home the title in 1997.
"It was our first time playing together and I'm so thankful you asked me to play, it was so much fun," Shibahara said on court. "When I first started playing tennis, I have a family of five and we were playing mixed doubles. This was the first thing I played, so this is very special for me to win the mixed doubles at a Grand Slam. This was just a dream come true this week."
Shibahara and Koolhof earned the early advantage in the fourth game, breaking for a 3-1 lead on an aggressive Shibahara poach at the net. The No.2 seeds consolidated with a flourish, as Koolhof nailed a volley and celebrated with a roar.
As Koolhof served to close out the opening set, Eikeri and Vliegen quickly earned a 0-40 advantage and converted on their second break point to get back on serve. Eikeri and Vliegen built a 5-2 lead in the tiebreak, but a furious comeback from Shibahara and Koolhof resulted in five consecutive points to take the tiebreak 7-5.
The second set began like the first, with Shibahara and Koolhof earning an early break to 2-1. This time, they would not relinquish their lead. After earning a second break at 4-1, Shibahara coolly served out the win after 1 hour and 29 minutes.
"Ena, thanks for saying yes to my request," Koolhof said. "Loved playing with you and hope we'll play more in the future."
The final was a historic day for Norway as well. By making her first major final in her first try at mixed doubles, Ulrikke Eikeri became Norway's first Slam finalist in the Open Era. Ranked No.43 in doubles, Eikeri and Vliegen made the mixed draw on a whim. The Belgian dashed off a quick text message to Eikeri to broach the subject of pairing for the first time.
The Norwegian/Belgian pairing proved formidable immediately. Unseeded in the tournament, Eikeri and Vliegen ousted two of the Top 6 seeds and edged their way through, winning three match-tiebreaks en route to the final.