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KUBLER AND HIJIKATA ACHIEVE WILD(CARD)EST DREAMS



Australia’s wildcard pairing of Jason Kubler and Rinky Hijikata have capped off a remarkable Australian Open campaign by lifting the men’s doubles trophy with a 6-4, 7-6)4) victory over Hugo Nys and Jan Zielinski.


The duo became the third Australian team to claim a Grand Slam title in the discipline in the last five majors after Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis at Melbourne Park last year and Matt Ebden and Max Purcell at Wimbledon.


It marks just the second time in the Open Era that this has occurred.


The pair are still waiting for the unexpected result to sink in, and they feel that when they leave Melbourne the enormity will hit them.


“I think we were just happy to be in the draw, to be honest. We looked at our draw, we were like, geez, if we could win one match or so, that would be a pretty good effort,” Hijikata said.


“It's been a ridiculous two weeks. I can't really put it into words, it's been an absolute blast. I can't really believe this just happened.”


“I think right now it actually hasn't sunk in, what we've done, what we've accomplished,” Kubler added.


“It probably still feels like we have another match in a couple days or something like that.


“I think after we wake up tomorrow, I think we'll really realise what we've just done. I saw a photo after our semi, it said we only won eight or nine matches on the ATP Tour before. Now we have a Grand Slam title.


“For me, I didn't know if that was ever going to come true. For Rinky to be 21, have a Grand Slam under his belt already, it's pretty exciting.”


Kubler and Hijikata began strongly, breaking the Zielinski serve to love in the third game thanks to glorious backhand returns from both to set up the game.


The pair would maintain the buffer without facing a break point to clinch the set as they celebrated with the energy that the crowd has become so accustomed to throughout the fortnight.


Nys and Zielinski were tasked with serving first in the second stanza and the Australians would continue to make inroads, reaching 30-all in their first three return games of the set.


The Monegasque Polish pair would manage to hold their nerve as the set ensued into its climax, the tiebreak.


The Australians would take a mini break early before their opponents got back on serve at 4-4, however, it was Kubler who hit a smoking forehand return down the line to regain the ascendancy.


With two match points the four players engaged in one of the craziest match points in living memory that ended with Hijikata on his backside and Zielinski missing a forehand push long.


Celebrations commenced with the Australians hugging and the crowd in raptures.


Hijikata is still bemused about how the point was won and jokes he is a little embarrassed about how he looked during it.


“I had no clue what was going on. Kubs swatted two balls back and I absolutely stacked it. To be honest, I'm a bit dirty that that's my match point, winning a slam on that,” he said.

“I do look pretty unco there. I just watched it. It's pretty bad. I don't know what I did.


“I guess just super lucky there, to be honest. All luck. I didn't really know much about that. Kubs did well to get those two balls back.


“I'm pretty sure I gave Hugo a high volley. Kubs was unreal to fight that one off.”


Kubler has endured more heartbreak with injury throughout his career than most would endure in a lifetime, so it is safe to say the title of Grand Slam champion sits as his highest accolade, one which he never thought was achievable in his lowest moments.


Now he and his partner in crime can participate in more of the larger-scale tournaments on the calendar.


“I think even lowest or highest, I never thought in doubles this was going to happen. I always dreamt of the singles one. That's sort of what motivated me,” he said.


“That's what motivated me through those tough times. I also really enjoy playing.


“I was never really thinking about the doubles trophy. I can't get into a lot of the tournaments because I didn't have a high enough ranking.


“It's pretty crazy now what me and Rinky can do for the rest of the year.


“But, man, this is the highlight of the career for me honestly. Still it hasn't 100 per cent sunk in yet. It just feels, I don't know, almost surreal a little bit.”


It will be a contrasting departure from Melbourne, with Kubler to jet home for a few days to relax following a successful summer, while Hijikata will be in Burnie as the second seed in the men’s singles at the Burnie Challenger.


One thing that they will share is the number one ranking in the ATP doubles Race to Turin.


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