It's been a period of firsts for Rinky Hijikata, the No.1 seed in the Rolex Shanghai Masters qualifying event. After a first appearance in the fourth round at a Grand Slam with a headline-grabbing campaign at the US Open, the Australian has recently celebrated a peak world No.72 ranking.
The 22-year-old Hijikata is now enjoying his first-ever trip to China and after contesting his first tournament in Zhuhai, he is delighted with the opportunity to compete at Qi Zhong Tennis Centre in Shanghai.
"It's a really cool tournament, a lot of fun so far," said Hijikata after claiming a 6-3 6-2 win over the Czech Republic's Marek Gengel to move into qualifying second round.
"It's a huge site, a lot of people here, a lot of Aussies competing this week, which is always good."
There were in fact ten Australian men who started in this week's qualifying tournament, with a further seven countrymen taking their place in the main draw by virtue of ranking.
Hijikata explained how the contingent creates a positive atmosphere.
"It's always good when there's a good cohort and we can kind of feed off one another, so hopefully we can all do well this week," he said.
That objective started in the best possible way in Hijikata's victory over Gengel, which he completed in an efficient 81 minutes.
"I was pretty happy to go out there and get the job done today," said the Australian, who especially appreciated the opportunity to compete on Center Court.
"It's got to be one of the bigger courts I've played on. It's a pretty cool stadium with the roof and everything. There were a fair few people out today, which is nice, especially for a qualies," he said. "Hopefully I can get another chance to play out there again this week."
Fellow Australian Marc Polmans is equally determined to continue his Rolex Shanghai Masters qualifying campaign after a hard-fought win over Alibek Kachmazov.
Polmans, the current world No.140, battled for two hours and 55 minutes before at last emerging with a 3 -6 6-3 7-6(3) victory over 315th-ranked Kachmazov, who defended 12 of 15 break points on his serve.
Other early Australian winners on Monday included James Duckworth, Dane Sweeny, James McCabe, Luke Saville and Li Tu.
Hijikata, who next faces Benjamin Lock of Zimbabwe, is determined to maintain momentum from the most successful time of his career.
"A lot," said Hijikata, when asked to describe the confidence gained from the US Open, where he defeated three higher-ranked opponents in his only his third main draw appearance at a Grand Slam.
"Tennis is a lot about confidence, and I feel like when you're kind of able to get through a few big matches, a few close matches, it kind of stems a lot of belief," he said.
"If you can have that belief and kind of keep rolling with it then I guess that's where good results start coming in. Hopefully I can keep riding the momentum and keep moving forward."