MANILA, Philippines – Filipino-Australian Jason Kubler and Rinky Hijikata captured the men’s doubles title of the 2023 Australian Open, a feat Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino said should make Filipinos proud.
The Australian wildcard pairing of Kubler and Hijikata outclassed the duo of French-born Hugo Nys of Monaco and Polish Jan Zielinski, 6-4, 7-6(4), in the final on Saturday, January 28, at the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne.
“It’s something that we Filipinos – and the POC – should be proud of and cherish,” said Tolentino of the achievement of 29-year-old Kubler, the son of Philippine-born mother Lyn and Australian father John.
“We know that a part of him is Filipino and Jason showed that to the world,” Tolentino said. “We’re really proud of him for winning a Grand Slam title not only for Australians but also for his fellow Filipinos.”
It was the first Grand Slam title for both Hijikata and Kubler, the third Australian pair to win a men’s doubles title in the last five Grand Slams. They teamed up for the first time.
Kubler turned professional in 2008 but couldn’t pounce on a promising career because of a knee injury that forced him to play mostly on clay.
Tolentino likened Kubler’s feat to the success of Filipino-Canadian Leylah Fernandez, who made the final of the US Open in 2021 as an 18-year-old.
Kubler also made headlines in singles action early in the tournament when he shared a 70-shot rally with Karen Khachanov in their second round match.
Khachanov was serving for a two-set lead in the battle between the two baseliners when Kubler managed to snare a break point.
The pair slapped the ball back and forth for 90 seconds before a Kubler backhand clipped the net cord and dropped onto the other side of the court, leaving Khachanov stranded behind the baseline.
The partisan crowd on the showcourt erupted in celebration and Kubler went on to take the set to level the contest at 1-1.
Khachanov, however, eventually won, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2.
“I was super pumped,” said Kubler. “I don’t think I’ve ever had a rally that long before. You know, I’m definitely going to be sharing it on my Instagram and stuff like that.”
The players would have had to go on a fair bit longer to break the record for a rally in a competitive match, which the Library of Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum believes to have taken place in 1984.
Jean Hepner and Vicky Nelson shared a 29-minute rally in Richmond, Virginia in which the ball passed over the net an incredible 643 times. – with a report from Reuters/Rappler.com
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