Melbourne, Australia, 16 January 2023 | Leigh Rogers

Rinky Hijikata has ensured his Australian Open main-draw debut is a match he’ll never forget.

The 21-year-old Aussie wildcard produced a remarkable comeback to record a 4-6 4-6 6-3 7-6(5) 6-3 victory against German qualifier Yannick Hanfmann at Melbourne Park this evening.

Hijikata battled for four hours and 25 minutes in front of a vocal Court 8 crowd, eventually wearing down his world No.128-ranked opponent in an enthralling first-round encounter.

“I mean, I don’t really know how to put it into words,” said an elated Hijikata.

“It was crazy out there. It’s definitely the craziest match I’ve ever played in my life.”

The world No.169 didn’t buckle under pressure against 31-year-old Hanfmann, stepping up to record a gutsy win in what was, by far, the longest match of his young career.

“I was just a little bit anxious I think and really uptight,” Hijikata explained of his slow start. “I think once I started to free up a little bit and started to play my game, and started to be a lot more aggressive, physically I started feeling a lot, lot better.”

Hijikata embraced the spotlight, urging the patriotic crowd to get behind him as he recovered from the two-set deficit. He used this momentum to shine, striking 58 winners to secure his first Grand Slam main-draw singles victory in memorable fashion.

“Going into the fifth I was feeling pretty good. I mean, it’s hard not to feel good when you have got that many people kind of getting behind you and being that loud,” Hijikata said.

“I couldn’t have done it without the support today. I’m so grateful for everyone coming out. That is the most fun match I’ve ever played in my life.”

His reward is a second-round showdown with third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, a three-time Australian Open semifinalist.

“I’m very excited,” Hijakata said of the match-up. “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.

“I’m going to go out there and give it a massive crack.”

Hijikata joins fellow Aussie wildcards Jason Kubler and John Millman on the winners’ list in men’s singles action today.

Millman also scored an epic five-set victory, overcoming world No.51 Marc-Andrea Huesler in a thrilling battle at Court 3 earlier this evening.

> READ MORE: Millmania lights up Melbourne Park

AUSSIES IN ACTION – Australian Open

Men’s singles, first round
[WC] Rinky Hijikata (AUS) d [Q] Yannick Hanfmann (GER) 4-6 4-6 6-3 7-6(5) 6-3
[WC] John Millman (AUS)
d Marc-Andrea Huesler (SUI) 6-7(8) 7-5 6-7(2) 6-2 6-3
[WC] Jason Kubler (AUS) d Sebastian Baez (ARG) 6-4 6-4 6-4

> READ: Kubler scores first Australian Open victory

Women’s singles, first round
[WC] Olivia Gadecki (AUS)
 d [Q] Polina Kudermetova 7-5 6-1
Wang Xinyu (CHN) d [WC] Storm Hunter (AUS) 7-6(2) 6-4
[Q] Clara Burel (FRA) d [WC] Talia Gibson (AUS) 6-3 6-4

> READ: Gadecki makes dream Australian Open debut

Men’s singles, first round
[22] Alex de Minaur (AUS) v Yu Hsiou Hsu (TPE)
Chris O’Connell (AUS) v Jenson Brooksby (USA)
Jordan Thompson (AUS) v J.J. Wolf (USA)
Thanasi Kokkinakis (AUS) v Fabio Fognini (ITA)
[Q] Aleksandar Vukic (AUS) v [Q] Brandon Holt (USA)
[Q] Max Purcell (AUS) v Emil Ruusuvuori (FIN)
[WC] Alexei Popyrin (AUS) v Chun-Hsin Tseng (TPE)

Men’s singles, second round
[WC] Rinky Hijikata (AUS) v [3] Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE)
[WC] John Millman (AUS) v [7] Daniil Medvedev
[WC] Jason Kubler (AUS) v [18] Karen Khachanov

Women’s singles, first round
[WC] Jaimee Fourlis (AUS) v Linda Fruhvirtova (CZE)
[WC] Kimberly Birrell (AUS) v [31] Kaia Kanepi (EST)

Women’s singles, second round
[WC] Olivia Gadecki (AUS)
 v Marta Kostyuk (UKR)

> READ: Australian Open doubles draws revealed

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