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Men's doubles: Wildcards Hijikata/Kubler ride dream run to title

  • Alex Sharp

Men's doubles final

Wildcards to Grand Slam champions – it's one of the most improbable triumphs in Australian Open history.

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In their first event as a partnership, Australians Rinky Hijikata and Jason Kubler have lifted the men's doubles silverware with a 6-4 7-6(4) triumph over Hugo Nys and Jan Zielinski on Saturday night.

It's the material of boyhood dreams.

"I think we were just happy to be in the draw, to be honest. We looked at our draw, we were like, 'Geez, if we could win one match or so, that would be a pretty good effort,'" claimed Hijikata. 

"It's been a ridiculous two weeks. I can't really put it into words. It's been an absolute blast. I can't really believe this just happened."

For Kubler, the scale of their accomplishment still hadn't sunk in.

"I think after we wake up tomorrow, I think we'll really realise what we've just done. I saw a photo after our semi, it said we only won eight or nine matches on the ATP Tour before. Now we have a Grand Slam title," added the 29-year-old. 

"For me, I didn't know if that was ever going to come true. Yeah, highlight of the career by far."

The all-Aussie duo celebrated in style on match point (Getty Images)

The home charges zipped around the court, pumped up from the very start of Saturday night's encounter. A quartet of punchy returns provided the platform as the Australians broke to love for a 2-1 lead on Rod Laver Arena. 

MORE: AO 2023 men's doubles draw

Nys ripped a 170km/h blink-and-you-miss-it forehand cross-court return winner, however the locals were moving in unison and picking off plenty of points at the net.

Nys and Zielinski put up a tough fight in front of a pro-Australian crowd (Getty Images)

Hijikata, representing the University of North Carolina in 2020-21, was bringing the college tennis atmosphere, orchestrating the crowd to get behind their success.

Nys/Zielinski were finding their range, forcing Kubler to serve out the opener. The singles world No.84 obliged, as the home team remained superior in the reflex moments to close out the set.

A blistering Hijikata backhand return winner tested the steel of the Monegasque-Polish combination. They held firm, and on the hour mark the final was finely poised at 4-4. 

MORE: Men's doubles final statistics

Hijikata was probing once again, and a low darting backhand pass had the 21-year-old raising his arm to conduct the crowd. No chances yet. 

A tiebreak was on the menu, and the Australian duo floored Nys in a scintillating all-court rally, which prompted a chest-bump celebration a la the Bryan brothers.

Just like the legendary American twins did 10 years ago (for their sixth title), Hijikata and Kubler prevailed in a pinball match point to become Grand Slam champions. 

The trophy, handed over by the Bryan brothers, stays in Australian hands, following the 2022 title run from Thanasi Kokkinakis and Nick Kyrgios.

"Rinky and I definitely didn't think this was happening two weeks ago. Bit of a pleasant surprise," said Kubler on court.

"I've got to thank Rinky, he was the reason we teamed up for this tournament. Two weeks later we've got this trophy!

"Rinky's only 21 and he's already a Grand Slam champion, so he's got a great future ahead of him.

"I've never had a summer like this and with you guys (the crowd), it feels like 1000 against two, I honestly can't wait for next year."