Jason Kubler and Rinky Hijikata have ensured an Australian Open trophy has remained in home hands, storming to a shock straight-sets win in the men’s doubles final.
With singles champion Ash Barty retiring and Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis unable to defend their 2022 doubles crown due to injury, Kubler and Hijikata have flown the flag, beating Monaco’s Hugo Nys and Poland’s Jan Zielinski 6-4, 7-6(4) in Saturday night’s decider.
The men’s match didn’t get started on Rod Laver Arena until after 11pm with the women’s singles final stretching to three sets.
But plenty of local fans stuck around at Melbourne Park post-midnight to watch the unlikely victory and the pair being presented the trophy by doubles legends, American twins Mike and Bob Bryan.
They also will also split an impressive prize cheque of $695,000.
Kubler, the former junior world No.1 who’s completed a spectacular rise over the past 12 months after an injury-hit career, said it was his career highlight.
“It’s pretty crazy now what me and Rinky can do for the rest of the year – I think we can play all of the tournaments together, hopefully build off this,” the 29-year-old said.
“But, man, this is the highlight of the career for me.
“Rinky is only 21 and he’s a grand slam champion so he’s got a great future ahead of him.”
Playing together for the first time, the local wildcards cut a swathe through the draw to make the title match, knocking off three top 10 seeds including top-ranked Wesley Koolhof and Neal Skupski in the quarterfinals.
Nys and Zielinski were also playing in their maiden grand slam final and only linked as a pair last March.
However, they won the Metz trophy last season and reached the US Open quarterfinals.
Showing no signs of nerves, the Australians broke Zielinski’s serve to love early in the opening set.
Kubler himself served well throughout while Hijikata, at 21 eight years younger than his partner, was outstanding at the net.
They both outplayed their opponents from the back of the court to fire up their fans.
Kubler stormed through his serve to level at 6-6 in the second set, sending it to a tiebreak.
They edged ahead 5-4 after a searing Kubler forehand and won the match in a chaotic final point that left Hijikata on his backside.
“I had no clue what was going on – Kubs (Kubler) swatted two balls back and I absolutely stacked it,” Hijikata said.
“To be honest, I’m a bit dirty that that’s my match point, winning a grand slam on that.”
Hijikata said he didn’t have long to celebrate, flying out to Burnie in Tasmania on Sunday for a challenger tournament.
No all-Australian pairing since the legendary Woodies — Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde — had won the Open men’s doubles in a quarter of a century until last year.
Now Kubler and Hijikata have repeated the wildcard heroics of the ‘Special Ks’, Kyrgios and Kokkinakis.
Australians own two of the four men’s grand slam doubles trophies.
After losing last year’s Australian Open final to Kyrgios and Kokkinakis, Max Purcell and Matt Ebden won Wimbledon six months later.