Defending champs fall in mixed doubles

NEW YORK -- Hours of practice and teamwork? Overrated.

Travis Parrott and Carly Gullickson put a new spin on how to succeed without really trying, winning the U.S. Open mixed doubles title in their first tournament together, a pairing that flourished more out of desperation than preparation.

They formed their winning combination only two days before the tournament began and then received a wild-card entry even though they'd missed the deadline.

"I was super-relaxed because I felt no pressure on the court, because it was just fun," Gullickson said Thursday after a 6-2, 6-4 victory over defending champions Cara Black and Leander Paes.

Indeed, there was no other way to approach it -- not with the way this pair came together.

Parrott's original partner, Abigail Spears, decided to play with Robert Kendrick because Kendrick already had a wild-card spot secured. Gullickson and her original partner, Rajeev Ram, weren't ranked high enough to get a spot in the draw.

After Parrott got dropped by Spears, he heard Gullickson was looking for a teammate. He sent a text. And that's how a champion was born.

Strategy sessions? Well, not really.

"Today we were talking about, 'Hey, who flew back to watch you play?'" Parrott said.

Gullickson's dad, former major league pitcher Bill Gullickson, flew in for the final, as did Parrott's wife, Kristin.

"She left after we won our first match and we were kidding around," Parrott said. "She's like, 'I'll fly back if you make the finals.'"

Yeah, right.

But it happened.

Other than the timely text, the best thing that happened to this team was saving two match points in the first round, against sixth-seeded Max Mirnyi and Nadia Petrova. On the first, Gullickson got into a one-on-one volleying battle against Mirnyi and came out on top after about 10 shots.

"Then, you walk into that second round, and you're just all of a sudden, just happy to be in the tournament," Parrott said. "It's a whole new mind frame."

So with all this sudden success, could we see this pairing in another Grand Slam soon?

"If she'll play with me," Parrott said at the exact same time Gullickson was responding, "Yeah, for sure."

Perfect teamwork.