Australian wildcard Rinky Hijikata has continued his breakout season with a storming second-round US Open win over Marton Fucsovics in New York. Hijikata crushed the higher-ranked Hungarian 6-1, 6-2, 6-1 to move into a grand slam third round for the first time.
The 22-year-old broke Fucsovics seven times without dropping his own serve even once in a thunderous display that sets up a likely last-32 crack at Norwegian fifth seed Casper Ruud.
Hijikata’s watershed win came just two days after the Sydneysider was left rocked by a fatal shooting at his girlfriend’s American college, the University of North Carolina where he also spent two years studying.
He will pocket the biggest cheque of his career, a guaranteed $US191,000 ($A298,250), after eclipsing his previous best grand slam run.
That came at this year’s Australian Open in Melbourne, where he reached the second round before also claiming the doubles title, his maiden major, partnering countryman Jason Kubler.
Hijikata’s latest victory pushes his live ranking to No 92 in the world, one spot below Kubler, who was forced out in the first round with a leg injury.
Meanwhile, the returning Daria Saville is taking heart after dragging world No 1 Iga Swiatek out of her comfort zone in a spirited display in New York.
True to her word, Saville frustrated Swiatek with her relentless retrieving and crafty tactics before bowing out with a hard-fought 6-3, 6-4 second-round loss on Louis Armstrong Stadium.
Saville only resumed playing in June after nine months out recovering from a torn ACL. But the one-time top-20 star defied her ranking of No 322 in the world to put the defending champion through the ringer, driving Swiatek mad at times with clever drop shots, lobs and moon balls.
She drew 22 unforced errors from the top seed, with Swiatek even hit with a time violation after exceeding the shot clock trying to serve out the match after one particularly lung-busting rally to bring up match point.
“For sure it wasn’t easy,” Swiatek said after extending her Flushing Meadows streak to nine wins and booking a date on Friday with Slovenia’s world No 145 Kaja Juvan for a spot in the last 16.
“The rhythm of the match was really weird so I’m happy that I just tried to play my game and play aggressively with a lot of tenacity. I’m just happy to be in the third round.”
Swiatek dropped only one game in her opening match but Saville delivered on her promise to “get in her head”.
She broke the Pole at her first try and had the top seed on the back foot from the outset. But the 29-year-old ultimately paid the price for a lack of second-serve firepower.
She won only one point from 18 after failing to land her first serve, enabling Swiatek to break her three times and eventually close out the contest after 93 minutes.
“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.”
Saville’s departure had left Ajla Tomljanovic as the lone Australian remaining in the women’s draw before the 2022 quarter-finalist withdrew on Wednesday.
Tomljanovic was due to play fourth-seeded Australian Open runner-up Elena Rybakina for a place in the last 32 but was unable to back up from her gruelling first-round win over Panna Udvardy.
Tomljanovic’s emotion-charged 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 victory over the Hungarian was her first match in nine months after undergoing surgery in January, also for a serious knee injury.