Rinky Hijikata walked off court ready to talk about his first win at the US Open but the Australian wildcard’s thoughts quickly turned to a shooting at the University of North Carolina where he studied business for two years.
Hijikata beat Russia’s Pavel Kotov 7-5, 5-7, 6-3, 7-5 in a bruising four-hour battle that put him through to the second round at Flushing Meadows. However, his joy was cut short by news of the shooting death of a faculty member at the university, where Hijikata’s girlfriend is still taking classes.
“I came off the court and saw there was a shooting at UNC that’s kind of put a dampener on it [win],” said Hijikata. “First and foremost I want to send my thoughts and prayers to everyone back in Chapel Hill because that’s not something you want to see.
“There is a lot bigger things than my tennis match here today. I guess it is just the reality of life sometimes in this country, which is not a good thing.”
Hijikata said he has not always felt safe in the United States, and after checking in with his girlfriend, friends and coaches he would have to refocus quickly for his next match on Wednesday against Hungary’s Marton Fucsovics.
“Obviously coming from Australia it is a very different dynamic,” said Hijikata. “I feel like as an Australian it can be a little bit of head scratcher at times the way things run in the US.
“There are times when you kind of don’t feel safe and it’s very unfortunate what’s happened today. I feel like it is really not an unexpected event, which makes it worse almost.
“Come tomorrow hopefully I will be alright, I’ll definitely be focused on my match, if anything I want to try and play 10, 20% harder on Wednesday for everyone at school.”