As 2012 draws to a close, Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei can look back on a year in which she won her first two WTA tournaments, represented her country at the Olympic Games and saw her ranking shoot from 172 to a career-high 25, making her the highest-ranked Taiwanese tennis player ever in singles. Only China’s Li Na is ranked higher in Asia; even US star Venus Williams is only one place ahead of Hsieh in the WTA rankings.
To round the season off, Hsieh played in the prestigious Qatar Airways Tournament of Champions in Sofia early last month. Losing her first match at the round-robin event to former world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki, she was then defeated by Italy’s Roberta Vinci in straight sets, but bounced back to end her season on a high by beating experienced Slovak Daniela Hantuchova.
Speaking from Melbourne, Australia, where she is preparing for next season, Hsieh said she was delighted to be the first Taiwanese player to compete in the event.
“I was very happy and excited to get into this tournament and to win the last match against Hantuchova to finish the year,” she said.
Hsieh sees her coach, Australian doubles legend Paul McNamee, as a key factor in her meteoric rise over the past year or so.
“I started working with Paul last year during Wimbledon,” Hsieh said. “I think I changed a lot of my game, including mentally, and I think the main key is I have a great coach.”
McNamee sees Hsieh as one of the top three volleyers in the women’s game and has encouraged her to come to the net more, but is happy to let her express herself on court.
“It was important she just felt she could be herself,” McNamee said during a break in Hsieh’s current training program in Melbourne.
“She didn’t have to change who she was, she’s a free spirit and you can’t put that in a box,” he said. “It’s very important that you let that fly.”
However, one thing he was keen for her to do was to play more singles and not restrict herself to being a doubles specialist.
Hsieh has been on the circuit for more than a decade, and although she had enjoyed some singles success — most notably, reaching the fourth round of the Australian Open in 2008 — she was concentrating on doubles before teaming up with McNamee last year.
“She didn’t really want to play much singles when I started working with her, but I could see she had so much talent it was a waste,” McNamee said.
He persuaded a reluctant Hsieh to play singles in an ITF tournament in Uzbekistan in July last year and, having reached the final there, she went on to win a tournament in Beijing the following week. It was to prove a turning point that has seen the 26-year-old climb from No. 361 in the world, where she found herself at the end of 2010, to her current lofty ranking position.
“My job was to make her feel like she belonged in the big league and I think she believes it now,” McNamee said.
“She can hit forehands and backhands in both directions [with equal proficiency], which is very unusual,” he added. “Her opponent never quite knows what shot Su-wei is going to play.”
Russian star Maria Sharapova has found Hsieh’s unpredictability difficult to deal with over the years, as she explained after her third-round victory over her at this year’s Wimbledon.
“I faced her many times in the juniors and she used to be a nightmare for me, because she used to slice and dropshot on clay,” Sharapova said. “I was like: ‘Where did she learn how to play tennis like that?’ Uses both hands, switches rackets. We had real battles in the juniors.”
Despite her recent singles success, Hsieh is not neglecting doubles and is to team up with China’s Peng Shuai next year.
“We’ve known each other for more than 12 years,” Hsieh said. “We’re good friends, so I think we will enjoy doubles next year and try to win a Grand Slam together.”
“We understand how we [both] play and how to get out of problems if we have trouble on the court,” she said. “We understand each other a lot and this is an important key in doubles, so that will help us a lot.”
McNamee — who won the doubles title at Wimbledon in 1980 and 1982, and at the Australian Open in 1979 and 1983 — believes Hsieh is destined to go far in the format he mastered so well.
“I’d love to see [Hsieh and Peng] in the final of a Grand Slam,” he said. “I believe in Su-wei’s career she definitely has the capability of winning a Grand Slam in doubles.”
Hsieh was born in Hsinchu and spent her early childhood there before moving to Kaohsiung and then to Taipei, where she now lives.
However, her life on the tennis circuit means that she spends less than three months of the year in Taiwan.
As well as missing family and friends, Hsieh has a yearning for Taiwanese food when she is away.
“I miss the food from the night market, especially chou doufu [stinky tofu],” she said.
Apart from Taipei, her favorite city of the many she has visited over the course of her career is Tokyo, which has a lot of attractions for Hsieh.
“The food, the culture, the buildings are pretty nice and the shopping is also good … and they have a Disneyland!” she said.
After completing pre-season training in Melbourne, Hsieh will have a brief trip home for Christmas, before heading for Shenzhen, where she is competing in a new WTA tournament. She then travels to Tasmania for the Moorilla Hobart International before playing in the first Grand Slam of the year, the Australian Open.
“I’m traveling almost every week. Hotels are my home … and the tennis court,” she said.
Despite having spent more than 10 years on the grueling professional circuit, Hsieh has no plans to hang up her racket anytime soon.
“If my coach doesn’t fire me I’ll continue to play for a couple more years!” she joked.
‧ Born: Jan. 4, 1986, in Hsinchu
‧ Turned pro: 2001
‧ WTA singles titles: 2
‧ WTA doubles titles: 9
‧ Career-high singles ranking: 25 (December 2012)
‧ Career-high doubles ranking: 9 (October 2009)
The all-English Champions League final might be played in England after Turkey was added to its “red list” of countries where all but essential travel is banned due to COVID-19 outbreaks. Chelsea and Manchester City are due to meet on May 29 in Istanbul and UEFA was hoping to allow about 10,000 fans into the biggest club game of the European soccer season. However, the British government on Friday warned supporters not to travel to Turkey after imposing the new travel restrictions and said that the English Football Association was in talks with Champions League organizer UEFA about staging the game in
WEEKEND MATCHES: Hang Yuan FC’s first game against CPC FC was a tense affair with no one scoring until the 80th minute, but after a flurry of goals Hang Yuan prevailed 2-1 Tainan TSG (Taiwan Steel Group) have had to postpone their trip to Hong Kong to play in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup qualifiers. The AFC on Monday delayed the AFC Cup East Zone Group J qualifier matches in Hong Kong — which were to be held from Friday next week to May 20 — until June 23 to 29 due to international travel and quarantine challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. As defending champions of the Taiwan Football Premier League (TFPL), Tainan TSG are representing Taiwan in Group J against Mongolia’s Athletic 220, and Hong Kong’s Eastern Long Lions and Lee
FURIOUS FANS: The biggest game in English soccer was postponed amid chaotic scenes after about 200 protesters made their way onto the pitch and set off flares Manchester United’s English Premier League clash against Liverpool on Sunday was postponed after furious United fans stormed Old Trafford in protest at the club’s owners, while Gareth Bale scored a hat-trick as Tottenham Hotspur thrashed Sheffield United 4-0. Manchester City would have been crowned champions for the third time in four seasons if second-placed United had lost to Liverpool, but Pep Guardiola’s side saw their hopes of a title party put on hold after the biggest game in English soccer was postponed amid chaotic scenes. The Glazer family, already unpopular for their leveraged buyout of the club 16 years ago that saddled
Seattle Seahawks wide receiver D.K. Metcalf, who has earned a reputation as one of the NFL’s fastest players, plans to test his speed against some of the US’ top sprinters on Sunday with a possible eye on the US Olympic trials. Metcalf is to run in the 100m at the USA Track & Field (USATF) Golden Games and Distance Open in Walnut, California. The Pro Bowler’s name appeared on the official entry list for the meet on Monday afternoon, when he appeared to confirm his participation with an enigmatic Twitter post. Others who have entered the race include 2016 Olympian Mike Rodgers