Tennis player Rinky Hijikata ready to ace Buenos Aires 2018
1 September 2018
TENNIS: Rinky Hijikata’s selection for Buenos Aires 2018 rounds out Australia’s Youth Olympic Games (YOG) Team at 88 athletes across 26 sports.
Currently, the 17-year old tennis prodigy is in Canada playing in a lead-in tournament for the Junior US Open next week, before he slams his way to the YOG in October.
Recently, Hijikata made it to the quarterfinals of the Australian Open Juniors, the semi-finals of the Wimbledon Juniors Doubles and was the winner of the Grade 3 Malaysia ITF.
The Sydney-sider began playing tennis as a toddler and knew from an early age that it was the sport for him.
“I started playing tennis when I was three, as my dad was a tennis coach and loved it as soon as I picked up a racket,” he said.
“But it wasn’t until the age of 12 that I stopped playing other sports and focused entirely on tennis and from there it started to get a bit more serious.”
For Hijikata to claim his spot at Buenos Aires he needed to perform consistently over 12 months to achieve the best U18 World Ranking possible. He said although this was the most challenging part of qualifying, it will be all worth it to fly the Aussie flag in Argentina.
“My selection was based on the Under 18 ITF World Ranking, which is based over an entire year of international tournament ranking points,” Hijikata said.
“One good tournament wasn’t enough to warrant a spot in the YOG, so it was really important to play consistently well over an extended period of time, as well as ensuring my health was in top condition over the entire season.
“I was ecstatic when I found out that I had been selected to represent Australia at the Youth Olympics. It’s a surreal feeling any time you get the chance to put on the green and gold and is something I definitely don’t take for granted.
“It’s probably the greatest honour an athlete can have, so I feel very lucky to be able experience it,” the Epping local said.
Hijikata’s sporting hero is none other than triple Aussie Olympian and tennis legend, Lleyton Hewitt.
“I love the way he goes about things, especially on the match court. You can always count on him competing until the last point and that is something I try to emulate in my own performances,” he said.
Hijikata said the toughest part about being a tennis player is the physicality that goes unnoticed to those who aren’t familiar with the sport.
“I feel as though the physical aspect of tennis is under-appreciated, not many people realise just how gruelling of a sport it can be, especially when you get to the level of needing to back up 7 five-set matches over the space of two weeks.
“The work that we put in at the gym and on the track is just as important as the work done on the court, but not everyone gets to see that.”