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ABC News
Andrew McGarry

Australian Open men's doubles champion Jason Kubler speaks about his partnership with Rinky Hijikata, how they came together and the future

As far as Australian tennis doubles combinations go, forget the Special Ks — here comes Team Kinky.

Unseeded pair Jason Kubler and Rinky Hijikata completed a perfect Australian Open, beating Monaco's Hugo Nys and Poland's Jan Zieliński 6-4, 7-6 (7/4) late on Saturday night at Melbourne Park.

Their victory made it two consecutive Australian successes in the men's doubles at the first major of the year, after Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis took the title in 2022.

Hours after waking up from the night before, Kubler spoke to ABC Radio about his amazing fortnight partnering Hijikata to a men's doubles crown, the journey to this point, what's ahead for the pair — and the struggle to find a nickname for the unlikely duo.

Kubler said he struggled to get to bed after the triumph.

"The problem with those late finishes is that all the adrenaline is still pumping so you're not wanting to get to sleep. I didn't get to bed until about 5 (AM AEDT), but lots of celebrating with my team and Rinky's [Hijikata] team after that, that's for sure!"

"I was actually all right – my flight [out of Melbourne] is a bit little later today. So I went to bed around 5, 5:30 (AM) and I was able to wake up at 10:30, 11. So it wasn't too bad."

Hijikata is straight off to a tournament in Tasmania, but Kubler has a couple of weeks off to enjoy the moment.

Kubler has overcome a horrible run with injuries, particularly with his knees. A fourth round singles effort at Wimbledon last year saw things start to turn around, but a run to the final at Melbourne Park was not seen on the cards.

"I actually think I need more time, it hasn't sunk in yet what me and Rinky did last night [on Rod Laver Arena].

"The middle part of last year I had that great run at Wimbledon, and then if anyone had told me that this is how my Australian Open would have gone, I wouldn't have believed them for a second.

"And even the summer in general, having played the United Cup [for Australia] as well. Honestly, I couldn't have wished any more from this summer. It's been so great to play in front of all the fans, and feel their energy while I'm out there.

According to Kubler, the partnership might not have happened if it wasn't for Hijikata's persistence.

"Rinky has asked me a couple of times before, but I've always told him 'look, I don't really play doubles, I probably won't do it'," he said.

"And then a month ago, Rinky reached out and said 'look, do you want to play doubles?'. And I'm getting coached by someone who coached Rinky for a lot of his teenage years, I said worst case it's going to be a lot of fun, we get along very well our teams are very close.

"Then for the run we've had the last two weeks, we both definitely didn't expect this, but at the same time we were just going out there and enjoying it, and swinging and hitting it as hard as we can.

"Thank God Rinky asked me, because I probably would have been [still there] last minute trying to find someone. Thank God he did that!"

Now, on the back of their major title success, Kubler and Hijikata are eyeing a possible run at all four Grand Slam events in 2023.

"The good thing is, as funny as it sounds, me and Rinky can have a bit of a doubles schedule now. I think we can get into all the tournaments if we enter together, if we sign in together.

"So we've got the French Open coming up where we can play together, we've got Wimbledon, the US Open —if everything works out we might even get to the end of year finals.

"It's pretty crazy, also, just like last year at the Australian Open Nick [Kyrgios] and Thanasi [Kokkinakis] were able to win, and hopefully we can do something similar to what they did [afterwards].

"They played a bit, they won a few tournaments throughout the year and also with Max Purcell and Matt Ebden making the final last year.

"We're just happy to be part of this Australian tennis doubles culture starting to grow again."

While Hijikata's next tournament is in Tasmania, Kubler is now off to Brisbane for some rest and training before heading to the Middle East for some ATP tournaments.

"With my singles, I think I'm [ranked] in the high 70s – I'm able to play the same schedule for singles and doubles now," Kubler said.

"I think [after] the third round or the fourth I think my doubles ranking went higher than my singles and I went 'oh no!' – I don't know if I could handle that because I've never seen myself as a doubles player rather than a singles player. But now I'm able to properly plan my singles and then enter the doubles as well."

And as for a name for the new partnership?

The "Special Ks" was an obvious moniker for Kokkinakis and Kyrgios, but Kubler and Hijikata found it a little more difficult to settle on a name.

"[People] tried … I just felt we didn't have that one [a nickname] where you know when someone says it you go 'yeah, that's the one'," Kubler said.

"We sort of went with Team Kinky, like that has a bit of a ring to it, it's kind of funny … but then every interview there was like "The Ice Brothers", and "just right".

"We said if the public run with one, we'll happily just take it, but I was thinking more the Team Kinky because it's a bit funny and we don't take it too seriously, so that's always good."

Whatever they're called, the future looks bright for the unlikely doubles team. 

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