Wed, Dec 26, 2012 - Page 20 News List

Hsieh stars as Taiwanese tennis enjoys vintage year

By Tony Phillips  /  Staff writer

This year has been a good one for Taiwanese tennis, with Hsieh Su-wei winning her first two WTA singles tournaments, Chang Kai-chen reaching her first singles final at a major tournament and Lu Yen-hsun claiming three Challenger Tour titles.

Hsieh’s impact has been the biggest, becoming the first Taiwanese to claim a WTA title since Wang Shi-ting enjoyed the last of her six triumphs in 1996, and reaching No. 25 in the world rankings, the highest singles ranking achieved by any Taiwanese player, male or female.

After starting the year ranked No. 172 and failing to qualify for the main draw at the Australian Open, the 26-year-old from Hsinchu reached the final at Pattaya in Thailand in February, where she lost to Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia.

However, a few weeks later she went one better claiming her first WTA title when Croatia’s Petra Martic retired in the third set of the final in Kuala Lumpur. Hsieh picked up her second by beating promising British youngster Laura Robson in Guangzhou in September.

In between her title victories Hsieh had a good run at Wimbledon, reaching the third round before losing to top seed Maria Sharapova. She also represented her country at the London Olympics, losing a hard-fought match to Peng Shuai of China in the first round of the singles, but reaching the quarter-finals of the doubles with Chuang Chia-jung. They lost to eventual silver medalists Lucie Hradecka and Andrea Hlavackova of the Czech Republic.

Chang also had a good year, reaching the final in Osaka before losing to Britain’s Heather Watson and making the final at the OEC Taipei Ladies Open, which she lost to Kristina Mladenovic of France. Despite the defeats, she can be pleased with a year in which her ranking jumped from 142 to 86.

In the men’s game, Lu won Challenger titles in Seoul, Shanghai and Singapore, but fell in the quarter-finals in Kaohsiung and suffered the disappointment of a first-round defeat at the Olympics to little-known Tunisian Malek Jaziri.

Jimmy Wang also made good progress, shrugging off the injuries that have plagued his career to boost his ranking by more than 100 places. The highlight for the 27-year-old was an impressive run at the US Open, where he won three matches to qualify for the main draw and then beat Ivo Karlovic of Croatia in the first round before losing to 17th-ranked Frenchman Gilles Simon in four sets.

In team tennis, a strong line-up of Hsieh, Chang, Chuang and Chan Yung-jan beat Uzbekistan 3-0 in a Group 1 Asia/Oceania round- robin tie in February in Shenzhen before losing 0-3 to a strong Chinese team of Li Na, Zheng Jie, Peng Shuai and Zhang Shuai. Taiwan bounced back to beat Thailand 2-1 to finish third in competition behind winners China and runners-up Kazakhstan.

In the Davis Cup, Taiwan had to make do without top-ranked Lu this year, but Huang Liang-chi beat Daniel King-Turner in straight sets in Kaohsiung in October to secure the nation’s place in Group One of the Asia/Oceania Zone.

The hosts managed to dodge relegation to Group Two by beating the Kiwis after losing a Group One first-round tie to South Korea in February in Gimcheon and then a relegation playoff against China in Kaohsiung in April.

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