Rinky Hijikata knocked out of US Open by local favourite, leaving just one Australian in the singles

Australia World

Australian Rinky Hijikata’s career-best major performance has come to an end in the fourth round of the US Open at the hands of American 10th seed Frances Tiafoe.

Hijikata was playing in the main draw of a major for just the third time, after reaching the second round at this year’s Australian Open and losing his opening match against Rafael Nadal in New York last year.

The 22-year-old made it to the round of 16 before 2022 US Open semifinalist Tiafoe ended his run with a 6-4, 6-1, 6-4 win, leaving 13th seed Alex de Minaur as the only Australian still alive in the singles.

Hijikata will climb into the top 100 for the first time after his run in New York, meaning he will not have to rely on wildcards to get into major draws, as he has for his three slam appearances so far.

But he was given a masterclass in how much more room he has for growth by Tiafoe, who had the crowd on his side throughout the two-hour match at Louis Armstrong Stadium.

Frances Tiafoe clenches his fist during a US Open tennis match.

Frances Tiafoe made his only major semifinal appearance at last year’s US Open.(Getty Images: Sarah Stier)

Tiafoe blasted 15 aces past the Australian, who could not manage any and got his first serve in play less than half the time, allowing him to be broken seven times in the match.

Hijikata, who won the men’s doubles with countryman Jason Kubler at the Australian Open this year, tried to get to the net to change things up and won 17 of his 64 points with his volleying game, but Tiafoe showed off his power with 27 clean winners.

Ranked 110th, Hijikata was a relative unknown to most of the main draw and Tiafoe acknowledged he was not sure how to approach him during a 50-minute opening set.

“I’ve never played him before so I was definitely feeling him out,” he said after the match.

The pair stayed on serve until 4-4 when Tiafoe broke for the first time in the match and held to love to take the opening frame.

Hijikata dropped his serve again in the opening game of the second set and powered through the set in under half an hour, before the third was more of a contest over 51 minutes, although it did not look like it would be when Tiafoe held to love in the first game.

Tiafoe broke Hijikata for 4-2 and looked set to run through the finish line, but the Australian broke straight back.

Tiafoe kept the breaks coming in the next game but again missed out on a chance to serve out the match at 5-3 before Hijikata dropped serve one last time, spraying his final forehand wide to send his American opponent into the quarters of his home slam for the second straight time.

The New York crowd is guaranteed to have someone to cheer for in the semifinals of the men’s draw yet again, with Tiafoe facing 20-year-old compatriot Ben Shelton in the last eight.

Shelton upset another American to make the quarters, beating 14th seed Tommy Paul 6-4, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 in their fourth-round clash.

Gauff praises Wozniacki after ending her comeback slam

Women’s sixth seed Coco Gauff was the third local favourite to reach the last eight in the singles when she took down two-time US Open runner-up Caroline Wozniacki 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 on centre court.

The contest on Arthur Ashe Stadium lasted two hours, with 19-year-old Gauff becoming the first American teenager since Serena Williams to reach successive US quarterfinals.

Wozniacki, meanwhile, was playing her first slam since the 2020 Australian Open, as she continues a comeback from a few years in retirement.

“Caroline’s back; it’s like she never left,” Gauff said after the match.

“She’s been an inspiration growing up. She definitely gets to a lot of balls. Sometimes I felt like I was playing myself.”

Gauff could face reigning US Open champion Iga Świątek in the quarters if the Polish world number one can beat Jeļena Ostapenko in the fourth round.

Taylor Fritz made it four Americans in the quarters when he beat Swiss qualifier Dominick Stricker on the men’s side of the draw 7-6(7/2), 6-4, 6-4, making him the only man left in the tournament yet to drop a set.