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RINKY BECOMES THE FIFTH AUSSIE TO LOSE A DECIDER, A LOOK TO DAY THREE



Into the early hours of Tuesday morning at Melbourne Park, Rinky Hijikata became the fifth Australian in two days to suffer a deciding set defeat.

 

Following Dane Sweeny, Jason Kubler, James Duckworth, and Daria Saville, Hijikata was unable to repeat his 2023 first round heroics in front of a raucous Court 3 crowd.

 

The Aussie from Sydney was the underdog against 24th seed Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany but quickly found his feet in the contest to take the opener 6-3.

 

Struff’s quality began to show in the second and third as the 33-year-old broke the Hijikata serve on multiple occasions and didn’t relieve his own.

 

A whirlwind fourth set saw the 22-year-old Aussie hit twenty-one winners and just nine unforced errors before requiring a tiebreak after letting multiple break point chances slip.

 

Holding the Court 3 crowd in the palm of his hand and constantly drawing energy from them, Hijikata forced a decider with a clinical fourth set ‘breaker’.

 

The world number 70 looked set to pull off a remarkable comeback after going up a break in the fifth, before Struff held his nerve to break back and ultimately claim an intense super tiebreak.

 

A quality encounter encompassing over sixty-five winners from each player ended 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-7(2), 7-6 [10-8] shortly after 12:30am in Melbourne.

 

The devastated Aussie was appreciative of the local support late into the evening, in just his third home Grand Slam match.

 

The atmosphere was unreal,” Hijikata told the media.

 

It's always a dream come true to play at the AO in front of the home fans,” he added.

 

I would have been off the court a lot earlier had I not had the crowd there and they almost got me over the line.”

 

As attention turns to day three – the final day of round one singles matches and the beginning of doubles contests – twelve Aussies will be in action.

 

Olivia Gadecki will commence proceedings on John Cain Arena against former US Open champion Sloane Stephens before Thanasi Kokkinakis (vs Sebastian Offner) and Ajla Tomljanovic (vs Petra Martic) headline the afternoon and evening sessions.

 

20-year-old wildcard James McCabe will make his Grand Slam main debut on Court 3, first up against Alex Michelsen, and Max Purcell (vs Mate Valkusz) will be second up on Kia Arena.

 

Wildcard Kim Birrell (vs Jelena Ostapenko) will also feature third up on Court 3, while six Aussies will be in round one doubles action:

 

Kaylah McPhee / Astra Sharma vs Taylah Preston / Arina Rodionova (4th match on Court 6)

 

Storm Hunter / Katerina Siniakova vs Camila Osorio / Yulia putintseva (3rd match on Court 8)

 

Aleks Vukic / Nuno Borges vs Gonzalo Escobar / Aleksandr Dedovyesov (3rd match on Court 14)

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