Giantkiller Hsieh savouring happy hunting ground

Ian Ransom
·3 min read
Australian Open

By Ian Ransom

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Chinese New Year arrives on Friday but Hsieh Su-wei's parents may know better than to expect a call from their daughter after the Taiwanese maverick burnished her giantkilling resume to reach the Australian Open third round.

Hsieh, who knocked out former U.S. Open champion Bianca Andreescu on Wednesday, can't remember the last time she celebrated the holiday properly, nor does she tend to call home during tournaments, much less a Grand Slam.

"They would talk and talk and I would forget what I'm doing here. Probably not something I need right now!" Hsieh told Reuters with a laugh at Melbourne Park.

"I don't even remember when New Year is. There was one year when I celebrated it at home -- it must have been when I got eliminated from the Australian Open early."

There will be no chance for a traditional New Year's feast this year, with the 35-year-old focused on preparing for her next clash against seasoned Italian Sara Errani, who eliminated an ailing Venus Williams.

As doubles world number one, Hsieh's main accolades have come with partners, and she will bid for a fourth Grand Slam doubles title and her first at Melbourne Park.

She has also built a strong resume in singles, however, winning three titles and confounding a procession of top-10 players with her unorthodox game.

The willowy world number 71 counts Australian Open champions Naomi Osaka and Caroline Wozniacki among her victims, and reached the fourth round at Melbourne Park in 2018 after knocking out third seed Garbine Muguruza.

Simona Halep also succumbed to the wiles of the crafty Hsieh as top seed at Wimbledon in 2018.

The game's academy-nurtured elite rarely encounter someone like Hsieh, who is two-handed on both sides, has an uncanny knack for angles and delights in wrong-footing opponents with disguised drop-shots rather than thumping winners.

Her pop-gun serve makes her vulnerable to big returners but she placed them well enough against first round opponent Tsvetana Pironkova and then Andreescu to mitigate the damage.

Against Andreescu, Hsieh's defence held sway. Rather than retreat behind the baseline when under attack, she often held her ground and fired back fierce half-volleys to knock the Canadian off her stride.

"She's got really heavy shots ... So I just had to run like crazy and send the balls back at her," Hsieh said.

"My game's able to absorb the power and send it back, so it was a matter of taking each shot as it came."

With her best Grand Slam results coming in Australia, it's little surprise Hsieh loves the country.

Davis Cup hero Paul McNamee is on her coaching team in Melbourne and her masseuse is also Australian.

"Paul turns up for the Slams. He gave me heaps of advice (here) but I told him not to over-do it! I would forget what he said. If someone says too much to me I tend to tune out," she said.

Hsieh has no specific goals for 2021 but is feeling better about the year ahead after 2020 was largely a write-off due to an ankle injury and the COVID-19 pandemic.

She had platelet-rich plasma injections for her injury at the end of 2020 which were "very painful" but quite effective.

Taiwanese tend to love their food, and Hsieh knew exactly what she would do if she had to put her racket down.

"If I am not able to play well, then I will just go out and eat stuff," she said.

(Reporting by Ian Ransom; editing by Richard Pullin)