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ATP Challenger – Playford, South Australia

[5] Rinky Hijikata (AUS) def [6] Rio Noguchi (JPN) 6-1, 6-1


21-year-old Rinky Hijikata has won his first ATP Challenger singles title, taking out the 80K event in Playford.


The triumph will help the Aussie rise 34 places in the ATP Rankings to a live, career-high ranking of 158 – also moving inside the top 10 among Australian men.


Hijikata worked his way into the quarterfinals with relative ease where he came from a set down to defeat second seed James Duckworth.


The 21-year-old then played flawless tennis across the weekend, dropping a combined four games in his semifinal and final encounters to lift the trophy.


Hijikata’s ability to break serve and move his opponent around the court was on full display as he dismantled both Max Purcell and Rio Noguchi over consecutive days.


Rinky – who has won six ITF singles titles since July last year – announced himself to the tennis world at the 2022 US Open,battling Rafael Nadal on Arthur Ashe Stadium and pushing the Spaniard deep into a fourth set.


Hijikata has now risen to 19th in the ATP Next Gen Race – the highest of any Aussie man – and firms a strong contender to receive a main draw wildcard for the 2023 Australian Open.


Women’s ITF 60K – Playford, South Australia

[6] Kimberly Birrell (AUS) def [3] Maddison Inglis (AUS) 3-6, 7-5, 6-4


Kim Birrell won her third professional singles title and first in over four years after a come-from-behind victory in Sunday’s Playford final.


Birrell was dominant all week, winning her first three matches without dropping a set, including a 6-0, 6-1 drubbing of second seed Jaimee Fourlis.


In an all-Aussie decider, played in windy conditions and in front of very few spectators, Birrell proved too strong under pressure, outlasting Maddison Inglis in two hours and fifty-six minutes.


The 24-year-old was able to limit her errors at crucial moments in the match on her way to a much-deserved title.


Birrell, who started the year ranked 740, will now rise back inside the WTA top 200 for the first time since September 2019 and becomes the sixth highest-ranked Australian woman.


Meanwhile, Inglis – who was contesting her first pro singles final in almost three years – will jump to world number 179 in the live WTA rankings, with both women boosting their chances of an Australian Open main draw wildcard.


Playford Doubles:

In men’s doubles action, Aussie pair Calum Puttergill and Jeremy Beale took out the title, with a 7-6(2), 6-4 in Saturday’s decider.


It is Beale’s first Challenger title since 2018 and Puttergill’s maiden doubles title at ATP Challenger level.


28-year-old Beale will rise over 500 places to become the live world number 489 in men’s doubles, whilst 29-year-old Puttergill jumps to a career high ranking of 245.


On the women’s side, Alexandra Bozovic and Talia Gibsonwon their first title as a doubles pairing, after taking down the top seeds 7-5, 6-4 in the final.

For 18-year-old Gibson, it is a fourth title this year and her first at 60K level, taking her live doubles ranking up to number 312.


Meanwhile, 23-year-old Bozovic will move to number 238 in the WTA doubles rankings after what is her third doubles triumph in 2022.


Aussies abroad:


Thomas Fancutt reached his fifth career ITF singles final and second of the season at the 25K event in Jakarta, Indonesia.


The Aussie progressed to the final without dropping a set, before falling just short in a 7-6(9), 7-6(9) battle with Frenchman Arthur Weber.


The 27-year-old will rise approximately 75 places to a live ATP ranking of 539.


Fancutt also teamed up with Aussie Brandon Walkin to claim the doubles title in Jakarta, with the pair overcomingsecond seeds Fajing Sun and Seita Watanabe 4-6, 6-3 [10-6] in the final.


It is Fancutt’s 21st career title and third this year, whilst Walkin picks up a sixth title for 2022 and a 13th overall.


Elysia Bolton and James Frawley also reached respective ITF doubles finals but were unable to convert them into titles.


Bolton and partner Jamie Loeb fell 3-6, 2-6 at the 60K event in Toronto, while Frawley and teammate Christoph Negritu were defeated 3-6, 6-2, [6-10] at the 25K event in Monastir.


In Waco, Texas, Storm Sanders made the semifinals in both singles and doubles but was unable to progress through to deciders.


After playing back-to-back singles matches in the same day, Sanders and partner Ellen Perez withdrew from their doubles encounter.


Elsewhere, 20-year-old Australian Jacob Bradshaw reached his first ITF singles semifinal at the 15K event in Sharm Elsheikh, Egypt.


The Aussie came through qualifying and won five straight matches before having to retire in the final four.


Bradshaw, who left Australia in March this year with zero ranking points to his name, has now played 21 events across Turkey, Tunisia, and Egypt, posting a 40-21 win/loss record.



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