Eikeri riding Norwegian vibes into mixed final

 - Chris Oddo

First-time partnership pays off as duo set to battle for silverware on Thursday

Joran Vliegen, Ulrikke Eikeri, Roland-Garros 2022, Double Mixte, 1/2 Finale Tour, © Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

Norwegian tennis is all the rage at Roland-Garros.

With Casper Ruud making history for the Scandinavian nation by becoming its first singles player to ever reach a Grand Slam quarter-final, Norway has been in celebration mode all week.

Ruud isn't the only player from the land of the midnight sun making waves.

On Wednesday on Court Simonne-Mathieu, Ulrikke Eikeri became the nation's first Grand Slam finalist in the Open Era as she paired with Joran Vliegen to defeat Nicole Melichar-Martinez and Kevin Kraweitz in the mixed doubles semi-finals, 1-6, 7-6(4) [10/7].

Eikeri, the world No.43 in doubles, had never played mixed prior to this week in Paris. She paired with Vliegen, a former world No.28, as they slipped into the draw at the very last moment.

“It’s our first time playing together and it’s actually my first time playing mixed doubles as well,” said Eikeri, who will partner Vliegen against Ena Shibahara and Wesley Koolhof in the final on Thursday (12:00pm on Chatrier).

“We had a last-second team-up and it’s worked out very well – better than expected.” 

“I think we were even last in to the draw,” added Vliegen, “So it makes it even more special. I just texted her and I said, 'Look, do you want to play?' Luckily she said yes.” 

Joran Vliegen, Ulrikke Eikeri, Roland-Garros 2022, Double Mixte, 1/2 Finale Tour, Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

Inspired by Casper

Eikeri says that she is inspired by what the eighth-seeded Ruud has been able to achieve in the singles draw.

The 23-year-old is the face of Norwegian tennis and will face Danish teenager Holger Rune for a spot in the semi-finals in the night session on Wednesday in Paris.

“I’m so happy for Casper and it’s huge for Norwegian tennis, so yeah I’m really excited for the match tonight," said Eikeri. "For sure he’s inspiring all of Norway, all the new tennis players coming up and it makes everyone believe it’s possible.” 

Unseeded Eikeri and Vliegen have won three matches via match tiebreak, and they have toppled the fourth-seeded and sixth-seeded pairings to reach the final.

“The matches have been very close,” said Eikeri. “Joran has been playing solid, so good, and carrying our matches, and I think he’s been able to help me relax. I started a little bit nervous but have stepped up more and more.” 

Vliegen had never been past the quarter-finals of a Slam in any discipline.

“It’s like a dream come true,” said the 28-year-old Belgian. “Whenever you start playing and you play these Grand Slams you obviously want to make it as far as you can – to be able to play a final tomorrow is just amazing. We’ll look forward to it, we’ll go out and play our best tennis and see what happens.”

Joran Vliegen, Ulrikke Eikeri, demi-finales, double mixte, Roland-Garros 2022©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT