Mens Tennis

Five Challenger Tour Players To Watch At The Australian Open | ATP Tour

<a href= looks at five Challenger Tour players to keep your eyes on during the 2023 Australian Open.

Rinky Hijikata (AUS)
The 21-year-old sets his sights on making a splash at his home Slam, where he is playing the main draw for the first time. Last season, Hijikata met Rafael Nadal in the opening round of the US Open and pushed the 22-time major champion to four sets.

In October, Hijikata won his maiden Challenger title on home soil at the Playford Challenger. The Sydney native became the youngest Australian to win a Challenger title since 2018, when the-then 19-year-old Alexei Popyrin won in Jinan, China.

Rinky Hijikata wins the Playford Challenger.” />
Rinky Hijikata is crowned champion at the 2022 Playford Challenger. Credit: Tennis Australia

The former University of North Carolina star, who is World No. 169, has already clashed against Top-5 players such as Nadal and Daniil Medvedev at the ATP 250 event in Los Cabos, where Hijikata earned his first Tour-level victory before meeting the-then World No. 1. Should Hijikata get past qualifier Yannick Hanfmann in Melbourne, he could face third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas in the second round.

Shang Juncheng (CHN)
At the Lexington Challenger, the teenager became the youngest (17 years, 6 months) player to win a Challenger title since Carlos Alcaraz at Alicante in 2020 and the youngest Chinese champion in Challenger Tour history.

The Beijing native, who became the first player born in 2005 to win a Challenger title, is one of three Chinese men in the Australian Open main draw, alongside Wu Yibing and Zhizhen Zhang. The #NextGenATP star Shang advanced through qualifying and will make his Grand Slam debut against German Oscar Otte.

Shang Juncheng claims the Lexington Challenger at 17.
‘Jerry’ Shang claims the 2022 Lexington Challenger. Credit: Lexington Challenger presented by Meridian Wealth Management

“I think overall I’m just very happy and excited about what’s coming next,” Shang said. “These three rounds I’ve given 100 per cent and I think I did very well at controlling my emotions after each round. It’s my first time playing Grand Slams, and I’m just super excited about what’s coming next in the main draw, and I’ll try my best to win.”

Yosuke Watanuki (JPN)
The 24-year-old has been one of the toughest players to beat on the Challenger Tour recently and will now get to show his talents during his Grand Slam debut. Watanuki has won 17 of his past 19 Challenger-level matches, including three final appearances. The Japanese…

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