Rinky Hijikata left the pitch ready to talk about his maiden US Open win, but the Australian wildcard’s mind quickly turned to a shootout at the University of North Carolina, where he spent two years studying business administration.
Hijikata defeated Russia’s Pavel Kotov 7-5, 5-7, 6-3, 7-5 in a tough four-hour bout that propelled him to the second round at Flushing Meadows. However, his joy was marred by the news of the shooting death of a faculty member at the university where Hijikata’s girlfriend still takes classes.
“I left the court and saw there was a shootout at UNC, which kind of dampened the win (win),” Hijikata said. “First and foremost, I want to send my thoughts and prayers to everyone at Chapel Hill because that’s not something you want to see.
“There is a lot bigger than my tennis match here today. I think it’s just the reality that sometimes prevails in this country and that’s not a good thing.”
Hijikata said he hasn’t always felt safe in the United States and after checking with his girlfriend, friends and coaches he needs to quickly focus on Wednesday’s next game against Hungary’s Marton Fucsovics.
“Obviously, when you’re from Australia, the dynamic is very different,” Hijikata said. “I feel like being Australian it can sometimes be a bit confusing how things work in the US.
“Sometimes you kind of don’t feel safe and it’s very unfortunate what happened today. I feel like it really isn’t an unexpected event, which almost makes it worse.
“Come on tomorrow hopefully I’ll be fine I’ll definitely focus on my game if anything I’d like to try and play 10, 20% harder for everyone at school on Wednesday.”