Scott Lipsky’s first ATP Tour level event was as a wild card in the doubles draw at the 2000 Hamlet Cup in Commack. Playing with one of his old coaches, “we lost pretty badly,” he recalled.
Now nearly 18 years later and 15 years as a professional, Lipsky, a native of Merrick, has returned to Long Island to play doubles this week with Divij Sharan in the inaugural New York Open at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum. He and Sharan take on Ryan Harrison and Steve Johnson on Tuesday.
It’s been a long, sometimes difficult, sometimes frustrating road for Lipsky, who not long after he turned pro out of Stanford in 2003 realized doubles, the lower-profile iteration of the game, was more likely his calling. At 36 he still is plying his trade of playing ‘half-court’ tennis.
“After college I tried to play singles and doubles and after a couple of years of doing that my doubles ranking was such I could get into the biggest tournaments, the ATP events and the Grand Slam events,” Lipsky said on Monday. “My singles ranking was lower so I couldn’t really play the bigger events, and you play tennis to play the biggest events. At that point my doubles partner and I made a decision that we were going to play as many ATP events as we could. We did well in a couple of them and it sort of took off from there.”
He figures he’s had around 70 partners in 15 years of professional doubles and he’s won a total of 16 ATP level events. That’s far from the pinnacle of the game achieved by Mike and Bob Bryan, who have won 114 doubles titles, including 16 Grands Slams. The Bryans are playing here this week.
But Lipsky has won enough to make a living and enjoy the worldliness of the game. He’s won seven titles with Santiago Gonzalez, three with Rajeev Ram. He’s made the quarterfinals of all four Grand Slam events.
So what makes a good doubles partner?
“It’s like dating,” Lipsky said. “You try to find someone you click with, get along with on and off the court, your games are compatible and you like spending time with them because you spend so much time with them. When it doesn’t work, or you get tired of it, then you break up, move on and try to find the next partner.”
His latest partner is Sharan, who he won a tournament with last year. Though he’s now getting a bit long in the tooth for a pro athlete, Lipsky intends to keep going for a while.
“I’m getting older, not a lot of time left. I’d like to do it another year or two as long as my body lets me,” Lipsky said. “At the point I’m not having success anymore, I will realize I’ll have to do something else to make a living. But as long as I’m doing pretty well and can do another couple of years. Doubles you only need to cover half the court and you can play a little bit longer because of that reason. I’m not under the assumption I can play forever, but I would like to do it as long as I can.”
Ultimately, it’s been a pretty good ride.
“I’ve been successful. If I wasn’t making money, if I wasn’t making a good living for myself and my family I wouldn’t be doing it anymore,” he said. “I’ve done well for myself over the years I’ve played tennis since getting out of college. I’m out there competing every day, getting to travel around the world and playing a sport for a job. It’s hard to beat that.”
New York Open at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum
DAY SESSION, 1 p.m.
Steve Johnson vs. Adrian Menendez-Maceiras
Scott Lipsky-Divij Sharan vs. Ryan Harrison-Steve Johnson
NIGHT SESSION, 7:30 p.m.
Noah Rubin vs. Kei Nishikori
Mikhail Youzhny, Russia vs. Matthew Ebden