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 make it to the second round of a grand slam outside of Australia for the first time in his career.

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.

“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 … [it] 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 seemed so commonplace in the US.

“It is a very different dynamic,” Hijikata said.

“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 $US123,000 ($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.