Rinky Hijikata’s breakout US Open might have come to an abrupt end with a straight-sets fourth-round beating at the hands of 10th seed Frances Tiafoe, but he is still celebrating the biggest payday of his short career.
The 22-year-old will take home $440,000 AUD for making it through to the last 16 — the biggest single cheque he has ever received.
Hijikata shared $695,000 in prize money after lifting the Australian Open men’s doubles trophy alongside Aussie partner Jason Kubler.
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But despite bowing out four rounds prior to the final, Hijikata will accept a much healthier cheque than his share in the Australian triumph.
A semi-finalist last year, Tiafoe charged to within a victory of another last-four showing in New York with an impressive 6-4 6-1 6-4 victory over the Australian wildcard.
Hijikata’s service speed was noticeably down from his previous three rounds, with Tiafoe having little trouble picking it off and breaking the 22-year-old six times during the two-hour encounter.
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Rinky Hijikata will enter the top 100 after his US Open run. Credit: Getty
Utterly dominant, the American conceded only 13 points on his own serve in setting up a quarter-final with unseeded countryman Ben Shelton, who had earlier beaten Tommy Paul in four sets.
“It means a lot,” Tiafoe said.
“He’s been quietly going through the draw and I’ve never played him before so I was definitely feeling him out in the beginning.
“When I broke there in the first (set), I really took off there for a while. At the end I got a bit sloppy.
“But I’m just happy to get through and into a quarter-final at the Open.”
As well as the money, Hijikata’s foray to the last 16 at a grand slam for the first time earned the Sydneysider a rankings boost from No.110 in the world to a career-high 81st.
That puts Hijikata in line for a direct entry to the Australian Open in January and gives Australia nine men in the top 100 even without the injured Nick Kyrgios.
Rinky Hijikata’s dream run at the US Open is over after a round-of-16 loss to Frances Tiafoe. (AP PHOTO) Credit: AP
Only powerhouses the USA (11) and France (11) have more.
“It’s been pretty cool to see how all the other Aussie guys and girls have been supporting me and each other,” Hijikata said.
“We’ve got a really good group of guys at the moment. I feel like we are all pushing each other to get better.”
Hijikata’s exit leaves world No.13 Alex de Minaur as Australia’s last remaining singles hope at Flushing Meadows.
De Minaur plays third-seeded 2021 US Open champion Daniil Medvedev on Tuesday (AEST) for a place in the quarter-finals.
– With AAP
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