Tuesday was something of a transcendental moment for 33-year-old Merrick product Scott Lipsky. With partner Rajeev Ram, Lipsky played at Arthur Ashe Stadium, the U.S. Open's No. 1 show court and the largest tennis venue in the world, for the first time in his long career.
That's not all. Lipsky and Ram, a Colorado native, won their men's doubles quarterfinal over Minnesota-raised Eric Butorac and his South African partner Raven Klaasen, 6-3, 7-6 (4), setting up a date against the top-ranked Bryan twins. Most likely at Ashe.
In the tennis ecosystem, it doesn't get much better than that.
"It's between [Ashe] and Wimbledon center court," Lipsky said of every player's dream venue. "Center court at Wimbledon has so much history and tradition, but this is the biggest arena in tennis, so to be out there is an honor."
This is Lipsky's 31st Grand Slam tournament, dating to 2007, and he still is waiting to be assigned a match on Wimbledon's center court. He and Australian Casey Dellacqua won the 2011 mixed doubles championship on the French Open's primary real estate, Court Philippe Chatrier, but he previously had never quite made it into Ashe. Officially.
"I warmed up Jennifer Capriati [at Ashe] one time in, maybe, 2000," Lipsky said. "I played a couple of years ago on the Grandstand [the Open's third show court] against the Bryans, but I haven't played [No. 2] Armstrong. I played Court 1 at Wimbledon, against the Bryans, also. Quarterfinals. At Australia, haven't been in the two main arenas."
So Tuesday was special, though the crowd was small for the 11 a.m. match in searing heat, and so is his first trip to a Slam semifinal in men's doubles. "It's exciting," he said. "I mean, especially at the U.S. Open, which is our home Slam. And, for me, being from New York, it's great."
Such an advance through the tournament didn't appear likely a month ago, when Lipsky split with his steady partner of two years, Santiago Gonzalez, and the 30-year-old Ram -- who teamed with Lipsky in the past before turning more attention to singles -- "was deciding between playing with me or one other guy he's played with a few weeks in a row," Lipsky said.
"But they weren't sure if they would get into the tournament based on their ranking, so we decided to play together."
Lipsky, who guessed he has had 40 to 50 partners in his career, is ranked 48th in doubles, Ram 69th.
So far, he and Ram, who are unseeded, knocked off three seeded teams in four Open matches, including the No. 12 Butorac-Klaasen pair Tuesday. Two Lipsky aces and his backhand winner were crucial shots in the second-set tiebreaker.
It made for another nice Open memory for Lipsky, who first attended the tournament as a 5-year-old and remembered "sneaking into the players' lounge one year. I was with a friend and bumped into Pete Sampras. Like, I actually bumped into him."
And now, the same as five-time Open champ Sampras, Lipsky has played the Big Room.