Thu, Jan 25, 2018 - Page 16 News List

Abrupt end to Hsieh’s dream run

‘THE PROFESSOR’:South Korea’s Chung Hyeon became the first from his nation to ever reach a Grand Slam semi-final and is the lowest-ranked semi-finalist since 2004

Staff writer, with CNA and AFP, MELBOURNE

Hsieh Su-wei, right, and Peng Shuai celebrate winning a point in their doubles match against Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic in Melbourne yesterday.

Photo: AP

Hsieh Su-wei’s run at the Australian Open that saw her plow through a world No. 3, push a former Open champion to the brink and reignite a once-lethal doubles partnership has come to an end.

The Taiwanese veteran and Peng Shuai of China yesterday were ousted from the women’s doubles, falling quickly in the semi-finals to fifth seeds Timea Babos of Hungary and Kristina Mladenovic of France 6-4, 6-2 in 1 hour, 20 minutes.

Babos and Mladenovic hit 23 winners to their opponents’ four and won 66 percent of their first serves to Hsieh and Peng’s 51 percent.

However, eighth seeds Hsieh and Peng had their chances.

After falling behind 4-1 in the first set, the duo had a chance to pull a game back, but squandered two break points.

Down 5-1, they won three straight games to pull within 5-4 and had a break point to even the set at 5-5, but could not convert.

Hsieh and Peng also stumbled out of the gate in the second set to trail 4-0 and never recovered.

It was nevertheless a breakthrough tournament for the 32-year-old Hsieh, who reached the fourth round of a Grand Slam tournament in singles for only the second time, 10 years after achieving a similar milestone in Melbourne.

She reached the women’s doubles semi-finals at the Open for the first time and rekindled a formerly successful partnership with Peng.

Whether the reunion will be sustained and whether Hsieh can maintain her singles momentum remain unclear, but former Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber feels Hsieh has plenty more to give this year after being driven crazy on Monday by Hsieh’s arsenal of quirky, unpredictable shots.

“For sure we will see a lot more from her in 2018,” Kerber said.

For now, Hsieh is to head home for the Taiwan Open, which starts on Monday at the Taipei Heping Basketball Gymnasium.

In the singles, Roger Federer zeroed in on a 20th Grand Slam title with Chung Hyeon next in his firing line as dominant Angelique Kerber and Simona Halep raced into a semi-final showdown.

The Swiss ace strode into the last four at Melbourne Park for a 14th time with a clinical 7-6 (7/1), 6-3, 6-4 dismantling of Tomas Berdych.

He is to face Chung tomorrow for a place in the final after the unseeded South Korean kept his dream run going by battling past Tennys Sandgren of the US 6-4, 7-6 (7/5), 6-3 to become the lowest-ranked semi-finalist since Marat Safin in 2004.

Germany’s Kerber swept aside Madison Keys 6-1, 6-2, easily taming the American’s big serve, and is to go into her clash with the world No. 1 on a 14-match win streak.

Top seed Halep was equally impressive in thumping sixth seed Karolina Pliskova 6-3, 6-2, reeling off nine games in a row after going 0-3 behind in the first set.

Ranked 58th, the bespectacled Chung, nicknamed “the Professor,” proved too hot for his fellow quarter-final rookie Sandgren, although he needed six match points before claiming victory.

“I never played in second week of a Grand Slam, so I’m really surprised,” said the delighted Suwon native, who is the first South Korean to reach a Grand Slam semi-final.

Kerber is in scintillating form after an unbeaten singles campaign in the Hopman Cup and her triumph in the Sydney International warm-up.

Keys was expected to be a stiff challenge, having not dropped a set, but she melted under the German’s relentless groundstrokes and pinpoint return of serve.

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