Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei opened her challenge at the first Grand Slam event of the year with a straight sets win over Spaniard Lara Arruabarrena-Vecino at the Australian Open yesterday.
The crafty veteran, ranked 27th in the world, but seeded 26th in the tournament, struggled with her 77th-ranked opponent in the first set, before winning the match 7-6 (7/5), 6-2 in 1 hour, 41 minutes.
Hsieh, who turned 27 on Jan. 4, was broken four times in her 10 service games, despite getting two-thirds of her first serves in, but she overcame Arruabarrena-Vecino by converting six of her 14 break points against the Spaniard.
She will need to be sharper against her next opponent, former US Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia, if she wants to advance further.
Kuznetsova, a consistent top 20 player throughout her career, saw her ranking plummet to 85th after missing the second half of last year recovering from knee surgery. She seems to be back in form after reaching the quarter-finals at last week’s warm-up tournament in Sydney and quickly dispatching Lourdes Dominguez Lino of Spain 6-2, 6-1 in her Australian Open first round match yesterday, and will be a good test for Hsieh.
The Taiwanese veteran engineered a stunning rise up the rankings last year with the help of renewed dedication to the game and newly hired coach Paul McNamee. Starting last year ranked 172nd, she finished the year at 25th, her career best and the highest singles ranking ever achieved by any Taiwanese tennis player, male or female.
Hsieh is hoping she will once again be able to extend that magical run at the Australian Open, where she reached the fourth round in 2008, her best-ever showing in singles at a Grand Slam event. Hsieh is one of three Taiwanese women in the women’s singles draw.
Hsieh’s compatriot Chan Yung-jan, who had to reach the main singles draws through qualifiers, scored a stunning 6-1, 1-6, 6-1 upset of Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia on Monday to join Hsieh in the second round.
There was also success yesterday for Taiwan’s Lu Yen-hsun, who reached the second round of the men’s draw after he beat Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo of Spain 6-2, 6-1, 4-6, 6-1
Chang Kai-chen lost to ninth-seeded Samantha Stosur of Australia 7-6 (7/3), 6-3. Taiwan’s Jimmy Wang, Yang Tsung-hua and Chen Ti failed to make it out of the qualifying round.
Serena Williams’ bid for a historic Grand Slam hit an injury hurdle, as Roger Federer and Andy Murray coasted and a landmark for Chinese tennis proved short-lived.
Federer and Murray opened their accounts with superlative wins on a sun-drenched Rod Laver Arena, as they joined Novak Djokovic in the second round and stayed on course to meet in the semi-finals.
As the tennis world reeled from news that ATP chief Brad Drewett was stepping down after being diagnosed with motor neurone disease, Wu Di became the first Chinese man to play a Grand Slam match, losing in four sets.
And there was drama when Williams, gunning for the first sweep of all four major titles in the same year since 1988, was on court for only 19 minutes against Edina Gallovits-Hall before going over heavily on her right ankle.
However, after medical treatment and despite hobbling around the court, the 15-time Grand Slam-winner astonishingly won 6-0, 6-0 in just 54 minutes as she belted every winner in sight to keep her running to a minimum.
The 31-year-old said she felt pain and swelling and may need an X-ray, but pledged to soldier on in her quest for a sixth title at the year’s first Grand Slam.
“Oh, I’ll be out there. I mean, unless something fatal happens to me, there’s no way I’m not going to be competing,” she said. “I’m alive. My heart’s beating. I’ll be fine.”
Any lasting injury to the hot favorite could throw the women’s draw wide open and may benefit defending champion Victoria Azarenka, who is scheduled to meet Williams in the semi-finals.
The world No. 1 from Belarus beat Romania’s Monica Niculescu, but had to come from 3-0 down in the second set before winning 6-1, 6-4.
Caroline Wozniacki, last year’s top seed and now ranked at 10, also had to dig deep before reeling off six third-set games in a row to beat Germany’s Sabine Lisicki.
Elsewhere, Japanese No. 1 Kimiko Date-Krumm, aged 42, became the oldest female to win a main draw match at the Australian Open, upsetting 12th seed Nadia Pedrova 6-2, 6-0.
In the men’s draw, Murray, in his first Grand Slam match since becoming a major-winner, showed his class in a 6-3, 6-1, 6-3 dismantling of Dutchman Robin Haase.
Federer, who is drawn to face Murray in the semi-finals, also showed little mercy in his 6-2, 6-4, 6-1 win over Frenchman Benoit Paire and faces Nikolay Davydenko.
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