Hijikata rewrites history with ATP Finals appearance
Australian Rinky Hijikata is the youngest doubles player to qualify for the elite ATP Finals in 28 years.
Rinky Hijikata is proving he is a star on the rise with his debut at the ATP Finals in Italy this week.
The 22-year-old Australian is the youngest doubles player to qualify for the season-ending championships since American Tommy Ho in 1995.
This age-defying achievement is a surprise even for Hijikata, who admits he didn’t expect to earn a spot at the prestigious ATP Finals in only his second full season on the pro tour.
“Definitely not, especially not for doubles,” he said.
It provides another highlight in a breakout season for Hijikata, who currently sits at a career-high doubles ranking of world No.23.
He sensationally won the Australian Open doubles title as a wildcard alongside compatriot Jason Kubler in January.
Hijikata was ranked No.277 at the time, had only previously recorded a single win at tour-level and was making just his second appearance in a Grand Slam doubles draw.
This phenomenal breakthrough helped Hijikata, a former top-10 junior who played US college tennis at the University of North Carolina between 2020-21, skyrocket up the ATP Tour doubles rankings.
The Sydney-born talent has demonstrated that his Australian Open run was no fluke either, making a further two ATP finals during the 2023 season.
Hijikata advanced to the Delray Beach final alongside American Reese Stalder in February and won an ATP 500 tournament at Tokyo with Aussie Max Purcell last month.
He also teamed with Brit Cameron Norrie to reach his first ATP Masters 1000 semifinal in Shanghai during October.
This success has carried over to the singles court too, with Hijikata tallying multiple milestones this year. This includes peaking at world No.70 and advancing to the US Open fourth round.
Reunited on the doubles court with 30-year-old Kubler this week, the unassuming Aussie duo are excited to challenge the world’s best teams in Turin.
“There’s a really good vibe around the tournament and (we’re) honoured to be part of it,” Hijikata said.
Their spirits remain high, despite losing their opening round-robin match against reigning Wimbledon champions, Brit Neal Skupski and Wesley Koolhof of the Netherlands.
“It’s a pretty sick atmosphere here, (with) a lot of people coming out for the doubles,” Hijikata said after contesting his first ATP Finals match.
“It’s definitely pretty cool to be here. It’s been a rollercoaster of a year, so just hoping we can finish well and enjoy this week.”
Hijikata and Kubler face Australian Matt Ebden and Indian Rohan Bopanna in their next round-robin encounter, scheduled for later today (from 10pm AEDT).
This is the first meeting between Aussie players in an ATP Finals doubles match since 1998.
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