The French Open, which begins today, is the favorite tournament of Taiwanese No. 1 Hsieh Su-wei. The 27-year-old will have even more cause to like the season’s second Grand Slam if she can repeat the success she enjoyed with China’s Peng Shuai at the Italian Open last weekend, when the pair pulled off a stunning win in the doubles final against Italians Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci.
With the home crowd behind them, the Italian duo, ranked No. 1 in the world in doubles, were red-hot favorites in Rome, but Hsieh and Peng battled back from a set down to claim a 4-6, 6-3, 10-8 victory
Their triumph at the Foro Italico was even more impressive, as the Italians have won three out of the past four Grand Slam doubles titles. They include the Australian Open earlier this year, where they got a warning of what Hsieh and Peng are capable of after having to fight all the way, before pulling off a 6-4, 0-6, 7-5 win over the Taiwanese-Chinese duo.
Hsieh and Peng have a genuine chance of challenging for the doubles title on the clay courts of Roland Garros, as was shown by their success against Errani and Vinci on the same surface in Rome and the fact that they reached the semi-finals in Paris in 2009.
In an exclusive interview with the Taipei Times late last year, Hsieh gave an insight into some of the secrets of their success.
“We’ve known each other for more than 12 years,” Hsieh said. “We understand how we [both] play and how to get out of problems if we have trouble on the court.”
“We understand each other a lot and this is an important key in doubles, so that will help us a lot,” she said.
Hsieh’s prospects in the singles are less promising, having drawn second seed Maria Sharapova of Russia in the first round.
The Hsinchu-born world No. 42 has never been beyond the first round at Roland Garros and it would be a major surprise if she manages it this year against the reigning women’s singles champion.
In Hsieh’s final warmup tournament before heading to Paris she beat world No. 62 Annika Beck of Germany 6-7 (6/8), 7-5, 6-1 in the first round of the Strasbourg Open on Tuesday, before losing a hard-fought second-round match against Japan’s Misaki Doi 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (7-3).
Taiwanese hopes rest with Lu Yen-hsun in the men’s draw, who like Hsieh has yet to win a singles match at Roland Garros.
In the first round Lu faces world No. 86 Simone Bolelli of Italy, whose best performance in Paris came in 2008, when he reached the third round.
In Lu’s only clay-court warmup tournament before the French Open he beat Italy’s Andrea Seppi, before losing to Pablo Andujar of Spain 6-2, 6-0 in the second round of the Open de Nice on Wednesday.
All the Taiwanese players who took part in qualifying in Paris last week lost in the first round.
In the men’s draw, Jimmy Wang was sent packing by 17-year-old Quentin Halys of France, the world No. 1,068 winning 6-3, 6-4.
Chen Ti fared even worse, Amir Weintraub of Israel making short work of his Taiwanese opponent in a 6-1, 6-3 success.
Chang Kai-chen would also have been disappointed with her loss in the women’s singles to another Israeli, Julia Glushko. The world No. 150 breezed past 11th seed Chang 6-3, 6-2.