Rinky Hijikata has earned his first Grand Slam victory in incredible fashion, coming from two-sets-to-love down to defeat Yannick Hanfmann in front of a raucous crowd on Court 8.
The 21-year-old – who played his first match at a major against Rafael Nadal at last year’s US Open – received a wildcard into his maiden Australian Open main draw and downed Hanfmann on debut, in four hours-and-twenty-five-minutes.
“I don't really know how to put it into words. It was crazy out there”, Hijikata said in his press conference.
“It's definitely the craziest match I've ever played in my life.”
After falling two sets behind, Hijikata needed to force his first career fifth set – and did exactly that, sending the locals into a frenzy at Melbourne Park.
In the decider, ‘Rinky’ was far from overwhelmed by the moment – winning 88% of points behind his first serve en route to a career-defining win – and was able to share the moment with his team post-match.
“I think everyone was buzzing. My coach, Sharky, and my trainer, Al, and my family was there,” Hijikata said.
“It was a team effort today.”
Hijikata mentioned that he was struggling a little during the third set but was able to regroup on the back of the boisterous support from his local fans.
“It's hard not to feel good when you have got that many people getting behind you and being that loud. You have that much adrenaline that it just keeps you pumping.”
“I don't think I could have done it, though, without everyone there.”
The Aussie – who was playing at ITF level in August – has risen rapidly up the tennis rankings, jumping from world number 375 to 164 in the 2022 calendar year.
Hijikata will now meet third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas in the second round – his third top-five battle in the space of six months, after recent contests with Daniil Medvedev and Rafael Nadal.
“I'm pumped. I'm not going to shy away from these matches. These are the ones you dream of playing when you are a kid and why you work so hard,” Hijikata said.
“I'm going to come out and try to play my game… and give it a massive crack.”