appears to be like at 5 Challenger Tour gamers to maintain your eyes on through the 2023 Australian Open.

Rinky Hijikata (AUS)
The 21-year-old units his sights on making a splash at his dwelling Slam, the place he’s taking part in the principle draw for the primary time. Final season, Hijikata met Rafael Nadal within the opening spherical of the US Open and pushed the 22-time main champion to 4 units.

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

Rinky Hijikata wins the Playford Challenger.” />
Rinky Hijikata is topped champion on the 2022 Playford Challenger. Credit score: Tennis Australia

The previous College of North Carolina star, who’s World No. 169, has already clashed in opposition to High-5 gamers similar to Nadal and Daniil Medvedev on the ATP 250 occasion in Los Cabos, the place Hijikata earned his first Tour-level victory earlier than assembly the-then World No. 1. Ought to Hijikata get previous qualifier Yannick Hanfmann in Melbourne, he may face third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas within the second spherical.

Shang Juncheng (CHN)
On the Lexington Challenger, {the teenager} turned the youngest (17 years, 6 months) participant to win a Challenger title since Carlos Alcaraz at Alicante in 2020 and the youngest Chinese language champion in Challenger Tour historical past.

The Beijing native, who turned the primary participant born in 2005 to win a Challenger title, is one in every of three Chinese language males within the Australian Open major draw, alongside Wu Yibing and Zhizhen Zhang. The #NextGenATP star Shang superior by way of qualifying and can make his Grand Slam debut in opposition to German Oscar Otte.

‘Jerry’ Shang claims the 2022 Lexington Challenger. Credit score: Lexington Challenger introduced by Meridian Wealth Administration

“I feel total I’m simply very joyful and enthusiastic about what’s coming subsequent,” Shang stated. “These three rounds I’ve given 100 per cent and I feel I did very effectively at controlling my feelings after every spherical. It’s my first time taking part in Grand Slams, and I’m simply tremendous enthusiastic about what’s coming subsequent in the principle draw, and I’ll attempt my finest to win.”

Yosuke Watanuki (JPN)
The 24-year-old has been one of many hardest gamers to beat on the Challenger Tour just lately and can now get to indicate his abilities throughout his Grand Slam debut. Watanuki has gained 17 of his previous 19 Challenger-level matches, together with three last appearances. The Japanese star earned back-to-back titles in November, when he triumphed on the Kobe and Yokkaichi Challengers.

Yosuke Watanuki on the 2023 Canberra Challenger.” />
Yosuke Watanuki on the 2023 Canberra Challenger. Credit score: Anastasia Kachalkova

Now at a career-high 138 within the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, Watanuki superior by way of qualifying in Australia. However it wasn’t with no take a look at. Within the second spherical of qualifying, the Saitama native fended off two match factors in opposition to Mikhail Kukushkin to maintain his hopes alive. Watanuki, who’s coached by his older brother Yusuke, will meet Frenchman Arthur Rinderknech within the opening spherical.

Luca Van Assche (FRA)
The French teenager went on a late-season surge in 2022. The 18-year-old reached 4 Challenger finals within the latter a part of the yr, together with on the Maia Open, the place he collected his first Challenger trophy.

Luca Van Assche in motion on the 2022 Maia Challenger.” />
Luca Van Assche in motion on the 2022 Maia Challenger. Credit score: FPT/Sara Falcao

The 2021 Roland Garros boys’ singles champion is the youngest French participant within the High 200. Following his title in Portugal, he joined an unique record of French Challenger champions aged 18 and underneath: Richard Gasquet, Sebastien Grosjean, Gael Monfils, Corentin Moutet, and Fabrice Santoro.

Van Assche, who earned a wild card into the Australian Open, opens with a troublesome take a look at in opposition to eleventh seed Cameron Norrie.

Mattia Bellucci (ITA)
The Italian made a sudden affect on the Challenger Tour final season and climbed greater than 500 spots within the Pepperstone ATP Rankings all year long.

In October, the 21-year-old gained 12 consecutive matches and gained back-to-back Challenger titles on the Saint-Tropez and Vilnius Challengers. Bellucci turned the youngest Italian to win Challenger titles in back-to-back weeks since 19-year-old Stefano Pescosolido in 1991.

Mattia Bellucci in motion on the 2022 Vilnius Challenger.” />
Mattia Bellucci earns his second Challenger title in Vilnius, Lithuania. Credit score: Saulius Cirba

Bellucci, who ousted countrymen Francesco Passaro and Luciano Darderi in qualifying, is at a career-high 153 and can make his Grand Slam debut in opposition to Frenchman Benjamin Bonzi within the first spherical at Melbourne Park.

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