Kubler and Hijikata Open doubles defence over and out
Reigning champions Jason Kubler and Rinky Hijikata are out of the Open with the Australian men’s doubles pairing falling in three sets in the second round.
The popular duo, who were ranked 16th, lost 6-4 4-6 6-3 to unseeded Germans Yannick Hanfmann and Dominik Koepker on Saturday.
Wildcards in last year’s draw, Hijikata and Kubler secured a memorable first grand slam title when they accounted for Hugo Nys and Jan Zielinski in the 2023 final.
It puts a dent in the hopes of a local pairing capturing the men’s doubles title for a third straight year with Kubler and Hijikata following the equally unlikely charge by Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis in 2022.
The Germans sent down 12 aces to five from the Australians and blasted 43 winners to 23 to wrap up the win in one hour and 51 minutes.
After levelling the match at a set apiece, Kubler dropped his serve in the third set for the fan favourites to trail 1-3, with Hanfmann, the world No.52 in the singles, consolidating.
That break was all the Germans needed with the veteran Hanfmann sealing the result with an unplayable serve down the ‘T’ to Kubler.
Other Australian pairs still alive in the men’s doubles include Max Purcell and Jordan Thompson and second seeds Matthew Ebden – who lost the 2022 doubles final with Purcell – and 43-year-old Indian Rohan Bopanna.
Ebden and Purcell ended John Millman’s career on Friday with a straight-sets win over the former US Open quarter-finalist and rising youngster Edward Winter.