Rinky Hijikata has advanced to the third round of a grand slam for the first time in his career amid a day of stunning upsets at the US Open. The Aussie scored a remarkable win over World No.57 Márton Fucsovics, as Stefanos Tsitsipas and Casper Ruud crashed out in shock scenes.
Ranked 53 places lower than his Hungarian opponent at World No.110, Hijikata produced an extraordinary 6-1 6-2 6-1 victory. Fucsovics appeared to be hampered by blisters and called for the trainer after losing the first set. But Hijikata's display was nothing short of heroic as he marched into the third round.
'WHAT A JOKE': Novak Djokovic caught up in US Open 'disgrace'
The Aussie vindicated his wildcard entry with a 7-5 5-7 6-3 7-5 victory over Pavel Kotov in the first round on Tuesday. That marked the 22-year-old's first win at a grand slam outside of Australia.
On Thursday he broke Fucsovics seven times without dropping his own serve once. He will now pocket the biggest cheque of his career - a guaranteed $US191,000 ($A298,250) for making the third round.
"It was a pretty complete performance," Hijikata said afterwards. "I was trying to dictate the points as much as I could but I felt like I wasn't playing too risky at the same time. It's rare when those days come, when you feel like you kind of have it on the string."
Hijikata🇦🇺 absolutely destroyed Fucsovics🇭🇺 today in the 2nd Round
Confusing match. Not sure why is was so one sided. Both had a day to rest!
Fucsovics only won 4 games… looked more like match fixing than any match I’ve ever seen#USOpen #USOpen2023
— Tennis World (@TennisWrld) August 30, 2023
Tennis is wild
— THAT UNDERRATED ARTISTE (@iam_dasilva001) August 30, 2023
So many upsets today
— Mikey (@xMikey98) August 30, 2023
Tsitsipas, Ruud and Dominic Thiem all go out
Hijikata will now play Zhang Zhizhen of China, who scored a shock win over World No.5 Casper Ruud. Zhang became the first Chinese player to beat a top-five opponent ever, winning 4-6 7-5 2-6 6-0 2-6.
"Triple Z, I have come across him quite a bit this year and he is also a quality player that has had a breakthrough year," Hijikata said. "He had run at the French so obviously he knows what he has to do to win at these big tournaments.
"It is going to be similar as today. I am going to have to come up with some really good stuff to give myself a chance but I'm looking forward to the challenge."
It was a day of high drama at Flushing Meadows on Thursday, with Tsitsipas crashing out at the hands of Swiss qualifier Dominic Stricker, and former champion Dominic Thiem suffering another brutal setback. Stricker, ranked 128th in the world, raised his hands and flopped on his back to celebrate his first-ever victory over a top-10 player in just his third appearance at a grand slam.
Stricker also took out Australia's Alexei Popyrin in the first round. "I'm just super happy right now. I came out and felt good from the first set on. ... I just kept playing high-level tennis." Tsitsipas, who has made the final at the Australian and French Opens, has never advanced beyond the third round at Flushing Meadows.
It was also bad news for Thiem, with the 2020 champion retiring soon after dropping a first-set tiebreaker to American Ben Shelton. The Austrian, who has battled to regain his top form in recent years after a wrist injury, complained of feeling unwell and couldn't continue.
It’s sad to see Dominic Thiem like this. He can’t catch a break. Sad as hell. Get well soon, Domi. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/UdpjJaOP1j
— Clint. (@CleanThing_) August 30, 2023
Ajla Tomljanovic withdraws, Saville takes it to Iga Swiatek
Hijikata's win on Thursday came amid a day of drama for his compatriots, with Ajla Tomljanovic withdrawing before her second round clash with Elena Rybakina. Tomljanovic, who played her first match on Tuesday since undergoing knee surgery in January, has now picked up a right arm issue.
It means Australia doesn't have any women remaining in the singles draw after Daria Saville pushed World No.1 Iga Swiatek but went down 3-6 4-6. Saville broke the World No.1 three times and made her fight to make the third round, winning plenty of admirers with her gutsy effort against the four-time grand slam champ.
Saville only returned to the WTA tour in June after nine months on the sidelines recovering from a torn ACL. The Aussie star defied her ranking of World No.322 and pushed the top seed to the limit on Louis Armstrong Stadium.
"I'm proud of myself but also disappointed," Saville said. "But I'm not delusional. I'm still just coming back and it just gives me so much confidence that I did all that rehab for a reason and I can come back to a pretty good level.
"I enjoyed being out there on a big court playing against a No.1 in the world and entertaining the crowd. This just gives me motivation for the back end of the season. I am going to China and playing a lot of 250s there back to back and hopefully get my ranking back up."
Novak Djokovic overcomes scary tumble to advance
And Novak Djokovic suffered a scary tumble en route to a straight-sets defeat of Spain's Bernabe Zapata Miralles. Djokovic had fans holding their breath when he hit the deck in a nasty tumble, but shook off the fall and continued his torrid display.
The Serbian superstar, who will go back to World No.1 after the tournament, booked his place in the last 32 with a 6-4 6-1 6-1 victory. "I'm still moving pretty well for an old fella," the 36-year-old said in his on-court interview.
"It was a tough match, especially in the first set. When we had the entire court in shadow, there was a lot of humidity. But it's same for both players. I didn't start off the match very well but the second and third sets were a couple of levels higher so I'm very pleased with the way I finished off the match.
"That's why we train several hours a day in humid and hot conditions - trying to get ready for anything that can potentially await you on court. Once you're in the tournament you need to be ready. Even if you think you're not you have to keep telling yourself you are."
Casper Ruud gets mad; should learn to get even, too. Annoyed by between-sets breaks by Zhizhen Zhang, last year's finalist goes out in 5 sets. Powerful performance by Zhang https://t.co/tLzM5OTpVz
— Steve Tignor (@SteveTignor) August 31, 2023
And just like that Thiem retires with an injury. Awful
— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) August 30, 2023
— Christine Lai (@ChristineLai604) August 30, 2023
— Nihit (@nihitsachdeva28) August 30, 2023
The crazy Tsitsipas career splits continue through 2023:
AO+RG: 43-13, 6 semifinals, a final at each
Wim+USO: 14-12, 0 quarterfinals
— Trenton Jocz (@TrentonJocz) August 30, 2023
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