Aussie tennis star wins US Open match despite getting news of terrifying deadly shooting at his girlfriend’s university: ‘I’ve still got a lot of mates there’
- Rinky Hijikata beat Pavel Kotov in first round
- Heard about shooting at University of North Carolina
- He attended the uni, his girlfriend is still there
Rinky Hijikata has been left rocked by a deadly shooting at his girlfriend’s school just as the rising Australian tennis star was notching the biggest win of his burgeoning career.
Hijikata toiled for almost four hours to carve out a 7-5 5-7 6-3 7-5 first-round US Open victory over Russian Pavel Kotov to reach the second round of a grand slam outside of Australia for the first time.
But the wildcard’s watershed win was swiftly overshadowed by a fatal shooting at the University of North Carolina, where Hijikata spent two years.
A suspect is in custody after a faculty member was killed and terrorised students had to shelter for hours as police looked for the gunman.
Hijikata attened the University of North Carolina with girlfriend Lauren Baddour (pictured together at the US Open last year) where a gunman shot and killed a member of staff in horrific scenes on Monday
Despite hearing about the tragic events on campus, the Aussie managed to win his first round match (pictured) against Pavel Kotov
‘I was pretty happy with the win today but that’s kind of put a dampener on it, to be honest,’ Hijikata said.
‘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 what’s happened. There is a lot bigger than my tennis match here today.
‘I was there for two years. I would have graduated this May but my girlfriend is still in school there. I’ve still got a lot mates on the team or in school.
‘Not the news I was hoping to come out to.’
The 22-year-old said coming from Australia made it hard to comprehend how shootings seem so commonplace in the US.
‘It is a very different dynamic,’ Hijikata said.
Hijikata said his experience of living in the USA taught him ‘there are times when you kind of don’t feel safe’ in the country due to the number of shooting deaths
Hijikata (pictured with Baddour) earned $192,000 for his victory at Flushing Meadows
‘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.’
As well as a guaranteed $192,000 pay day, Hijikata’s victory earned the Sydneysider a shot at unseeded Hungarian Marton Fucsovics for a place in the third round of a grand slam for the first time.
After watching a video of students jumping out of a window, Hijikata promised to play for his old school mates.
‘I think come tomorrow hopefully I will be alright,’ he said.
‘I’ll definitely be focused on my match. If anything, I want to try and play 10, 20 per cent harder on Wednesday for everyone at school at the moment.
‘I’ll definitely try harder for everyone back home and all the Tar Heels (university basketball players).’