Last year the Special Ks took us on a wild ride to the Australian Open doubles title. Now a pair of Aussies ranked 277 and 163 in the world are our new hometown heroes.
Rinky Hijikata and Jason Kubler are into the Australian Open men’s final and planning to continue their unique preparation for the Saturday showpiece.
The Aussie pair — ranked 163rd and 277th in the world for doubles — have emulated Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis’ feat by reaching the decider as qualifiers at Melbourne Park.
They dispatched eighth seeds Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos 6-4 6-2 in a commanding semi-final performance to book a final against Hugo Nys and Jan Zieliński.
Asked what their lead-up to the final would look like, Hijikata said: “(Jason will be) smashing on some lollies and Pepsi, and I’ll probably sleep for most of the day tomorrow.”
It’s a unique formula but one that is clearly working for the unlikely doubles heroes.
They have eliminated the first and eighth seeds in their past two outings without dropping a set, storming into the final and capturing the attention of a nation.
Now the challenge is out for someone to come up with a nickname by Saturday so they can match the ‘Special Ks’.
“We seem to have bad names for a nickname. We think of it and then there’s nothing,” Kubler said.
“Nothing that sounds that good. Hopefully someone can come up with something but if not, Jason and Rinky should be fine.”
Hijikata and Kubler might not play traditional doubles tennis or have the history together of other pairings, but their partnership is working wonders.
“It’s funny because at some stages we’re just yelling at each other,” Kubler said.
“I don’t know what he’s saying, he doesn’t know what I’m saying, he doesn’t know what I’m saying we’re just yelling.
:There’s happens of energy and we both play better when there’s more energy. We’ll keep it going. I don’t know what the leader is but we’re doing pretty well right now.”
5.15PM WHO WINS TONIGHT?
It’s your turn to have your say on who you think will make the Australian Open women’s final.
4.48pm WHAT HIJIKATA, KUBLER SAID
RINKY: No, I was still pretty bummed about my singles match to be honest! But, yeah, I guess, wow, we’ll take it for sure.
KUBLER: Who would have thought, who would have thought. We both returned unbelievable. If any watched the match yesterday they saw Rinky lacing them, I was happy to do my part today. Unbelievable, we get a rest day tomorrow, and then play Saturday.
RINKY: I don’t even know at this point. I have think we just see the ball, hit the ball. Don’t know to be honest.
KUBLER: It’s funny because at some stages we’re just yelling at each other. I don’t know what he’s saying, he doesn’t know what I’m saying, he doesn’t know what I’m saying we’re just yelling. There’s happens of energy and we both play better when there’s more energy. We’ll keep it going. I don’t know what the leader is but we’re doing pretty well right now.
RINKY: (Asked about their preparation for the final) Smashing on some lollies and Pepsi, and I’ll probably sleep for most of the day tomorrow.
KUBLER: I was lucky enough to play a couple of matches on Ken Rosewall Arena and great to have that atmosphere and experience. This was the first time I’ve played on Rod Laver Arena in the day I think, so I was a bit nervous to come out but as soon as our energy comes out, I’m not even thinking anymore, I’m just swinging…With each match we get more confident and I feel more at home on these big courts.
RINKY: I don’t know, hey, no clue, I guess…yeah, if someone can come up with one. I think it must be pretty hard because we haven’t found one yet.
KUBLER: We seem to have bad names for a nickname. We think of it and then there’s nothing. Nothing that sounds that good. Hopefully someone can come up with something but if not, Jason and Rinky should be fine.
4.42PM AUSSIE DUO INTO MEN’S DOUBLES FINAL
They’ve done it! Rinky Hijikata and Jason Kubler, ranked 277th and 163rd in the world for doubles, are into the Australian Open final with a 6-4 6-2 victory. Boy does the crowd love it!
“Wow, this has been such a good performance both on serve, placement and returns from the two Australians,” says doubles legend Todd Woodbridge.
4.36PM HIJIKATA, KUBLER TO SERVE FOR MATCH
The Aussie pair break again in the second set and are within sight of the men’s doubles final. They lead 5-2 in the second set. Start Googling men’s doubles because you might want to sound like an expert when discussing these two with your mates! First the Special Ks, now Kubler and Hijikata. One more to go.
4.32PM AUSSIE PAIR THREE GAMES FROM FINAL
Hijikata and Kubler continue to hold a break in the second set and at 3-2, Todd Woodbridge sums up what every Aussie in the crowd seems to be thinking: “This is fun. This is great viewing,” he says on Channel 9. Hijikata has just held serve to make it 4-2.
4.05PM AUSSIES TAKE FIRST SET IN DOUBLES SEMI-FINAL
Rinky Hijikata and Jason Kubler have taken the first set in their men’s doubles semi-final against eighth seeds Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos.
Looking to keep the title in Aussie hands and repeat the feat of the ‘Special Ks’ last year, Hijikata and Kubler are one set up after taking the first set 6-4.
TENNIS LEGEND’S TAKE ON RUSSIA BAN
Tennis great Billie Jean King urged Wimbledon on Wednesday to lift its ban on Russian and Belarusian players, saying “life is too short”.
Players from both countries were barred from the Grand Slam last year over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with the tournament stripped of ranking points as a result.
The All England Club is considering whether to do the same again this year but King called on them to drop the ban.
“Just keep it the same way as the other ones are. Life is too short,” she told reporters at the Australian Open. “I think they should get prize money. Just have them play and get their money.” Players from Russia and Belarus are competing at the Australian Open as independents under a neutral white flag.
Two Belarusians – Victoria Azarenka and Aryna Sabelenka – are into the semi-finals and could meet in Saturday’s title match.
Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan is also in the last four, despite being seeded only 22 after missing out on rankings points for winning the major.
“It’s the ranking points, for sure. They have to have it. Rybakina, they’ve seeded her 22, but because she won Wimbledon she’s not (seeded higher),” said King.
DJOKOVIC ISSUES CHEEKY CHALLENGE TO FEDERER
Roger Federer may no longer be on the ATP Tour but that hasn’t stopped his adversaries from keeping a close eye on what he is doing.
And when it comes to Novak Djokovic, the competitive rivalry still exists – even if it may play out in another sport.
Fresh off his quarter-final smashing of Russian Andrey Rublev, Djokovic gave a shout-out to Federer in his post-match interview and issued a cheeky challenge to the Swiss superstar.
“Let’s give a big round of applause to Roger guys,” he said.
“Tennis misses him for sure. I’ve seen him dressing up very sharply for fashion week.
“Yeah, I‘ve seen him skiing. I want to challenge him to a little skiing race in few years’ time.
“But yeah, he‘s enjoying life for sure. It’s nice to see that.
“Obviously for tennis, he’s been one of the most important players ever to play the game. So, big regards to him and his family.”
While we would love one last Djokovic v Federer showdown on the tennis court, the snow might be all we can hope for.
Originally published as Australian Open Day 11 live scores: Women’s semi-finals