New York, USA, 28 August 2023 | Leigh Rogers

Rinky Hijikata returns to the US Open with happy memories and brimming self-belief.

A year ago, he made an impressive main-draw debut at the Grand Slam tournament. As an unheralded wildcard ranked No.198, Hijikata sensationally extended second seed Rafael Nadal to four sets in a primetime Arthur Ashe Stadium showdown.

It was a fearless performance, which earned widespread respect.

“Obviously Rafa played too good for me, but I’m looking forward to going back and soaking up the atmosphere again,” Hijikata told

“It’s a great tournament to be a part of and hopefully this year I can get a couple of wins.”

Hijikata begins his 2023 campaign against world No.98 Pavel Kotov, a 24-year-old Russian searching for his first Grand Slam main-draw victory.

> READ: Hijikata among seven Aussies in action on day one

Unlike last year, the 22-year-old Australian will hold an important advantage in big-match experience.

Hijikata is currently ranked a career-high No.110 in singles and peaked at world No.32 in doubles earlier this year.

He skyrocketed up the doubles rankings after capturing the Australian Open 2023 title, in only his second Grand Slam doubles appearance, alongside compatriot Jason Kubler.

“It’s been a great season so far,” said Hijikata, who turned professional last year after spending two years studying and playing college tennis at the University of North Carolina.

> READ: Hijikata, Hunter receive US Open 2023 wildcards

Hijikata enjoyed a major breakthrough in singles as well at this year’s Australian Open, rallying back from a two-set deficit to beat German Yannick Hanfmann and record his first Grand Slam main-draw win.

He then posted a first ATP Masters 1000 main-draw victory as a qualifier at Indian Wells in March, where he defeated world No.57 Mikael Ymer in the opening round.

Other highlights on the singles court include scoring two top-100 wins to advance to a maiden semifinal at an ATP 250 tournament at ‘s-Hertogenbosch in June and winning an ATP Challenger title at Burnie in February.

“I’ve just been trying to focus on improving my game and kind of learning as much as I can,” Hijikata said.

“I feel like I’m still pretty new to this. It’s only my second year on tour.”

While thrilled to make “this big of a leap” in the past 12 months, Hijikata is determined to further cement his place among the game’s elite.

“I feel like I’m not really where I want to be yet,” he said. “I still want to keep going up. Hopefully this is just the beginning and there is a lot more to come.

“Hopefully by year end, I’m cemented in the top 100 in the (singles) rankings.”

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