AUSTRALIA has a knack of producing the most exciting and oddly successful one-off doubles partnerships at Melbourne Park, and the latest pairing is just one win away from keeping the men’s doubles title in Australia. After the success of Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis last year, the home nation has produced another incredible doubles partnership, with Rinky Hijikata and Jason Kubler through to the decider.
Earning a wildcard in the doubles event, Hijikata and Kubler have had an incredible run to the final, defeating three of the top eight seeds en route to the decider. The 21-year-old Hijikata and 29-year-old Kubler are far from experienced with the former only playing three Tour matches prior to the Australian Open. Kubler is a little more experienced but has still only played the 13 matches, for an 8-5 record over the journey. Incredibly after their run to the final, Kubler is ranked 49th, and Hijikata 62nd, but easily career-highs.
Kubler and Hijikata have been outstanding all tournament, with their biggest upset coming at the expense of world number ones, Neal Skupski and Wesley Koolhof, repeating the feat that Kyrgios and Kokkinakis achieved 12 months earlier.In the most recent match, the pair rolled past eighth seeds Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos in straight sets, 6-4 6-2 in an hour and 22 minutes.
“This is the first time I’ve played during the day on Rod Laver Arena, so I was, to be honest, a little bit nervous coming out,” Kubler said post-match. “But then as soon as our energy starts going, I’m not even thinking anymore. I’m just swinging.”
It has been quite the performance from the pairing, with the duo becoming just the sixth all-Australian team to reach the Australian Open men’s doubles final since the event was moved to Melbourne Park 35 years ago. They are the fourth pairing in the past four tournaments, after the all-Australian final 12 months ago.
“I’m just trying to soak it all in. I just can’t really believe it, to be honest,” Hijikata said.
“It’s a special moment for the both of us,” Kubler said. “Obviously we want to win, but regardless how it goes, this has been special. I’m definitely not going to be forgetting this. I don’t think Rinky will be either.
“Hopefully we can just keep riding the momentum we have created and see how it goes on Saturday.”