Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei won plenty of new admirers at the Australian Open as she leveraged her unorthodox game to an unexpected quarter-final spot, but despite all the added attention the 35-year-old does not expect sponsors to be banging down her door.
Hsieh, who became the oldest woman in the Open era to reach a Grand Slam quarter-final for the first time, yesterday saw her Melbourne Park adventure brought to an end by a 6-2, 6-2 thrashing by Naomi Osaka of Japan.
The world’s top-ranked doubles player, with three major titles, Hsieh has made just over US$8 million in career prize money and is to take home an additional A$525,000 (US$409,130) for her run in the singles in Melbourne.
Hsieh’s coach on Monday said that she had struggled to find sponsors throughout her career and did not have any endorsement deals.
“Tennis is my first priority,” Hsieh said at her post-match news conference. “If the other stuff comes, it comes. I don’t mind if doesn’t, because you’ve seen me do good here. If I do good, I use it to pay my team. If I don’t do good ... I don’t have enough to pay my team well.”
Sponsors in Taiwan have reached out to her before, but things did not work out, she said.
“I don’t have a manager in Taiwan. It’s really tough. Only if they’re sure they want to have a contract with me can we make it work,” Hsieh said. “I went to a place to try to get a contract with a company in Taiwan, I spent a lot of time on it and it didn’t happen. I ended up not focusing on practice or tournaments. It’s not good for me because at my age I don’t have much time to waste.”
Meanwhile, Osaka said that her dominance over Hsieh, two years after suffering a big scare in an emotional roller-coaster of a match against the Taiwanese at the 2019 tournament, showed how much better she had become at sticking to a plan rather than relying on her instincts.
“I would say for me today it was really important to have a plan just because she’s an opponent that I’m not really sure what’s going to happen,” Osaka said of Hsieh, who beat her in Miami in 2019. “So just having something to structure myself and not get carried away with what she’s going to do was definitely really important. I feel like being able to receive information is something that I’ve been learning, and it’s something that I feel my experience over these past couple years has helped me. Because, I think a couple years ago, I probably wouldn’t be able to understand what I was supposed to do that well here, but definitely I feel like I’m getting better at being able to stick to a plan. I know my attention isn’t that great all the time, but yeah.”
Osaka is to play Serena Williams in the semi-finals, after the American came through a huge test of her Australian Open title credentials to reach the last four at Melbourne Park for the ninth time with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Simona Halep.
The 39-year-old went toe-to-toe with the Romanian second seed over 80 minutes on Rod Laver Arena before she was finally able to move to within two victories of a record-equaling 24th Grand Slam title.
Williams hit some ferocious forehands and moved around the court with a freedom that she has not enjoyed for a while.
“I think this was the best match I have played at this tournament, for sure,” Williams said. “I knew it had to be going up against the No. 2 in the world. I had to be better and I was, so I’m excited.”
If any match at this year’s tournament deserved a crowd, it was this. There were nine breaks of serve as two great competitors punched and counterpunched over lengthy rallies.
Williams was always in front in the first set, but needed to dig deep to wrestle back the momentum after Halep took a 3-1 lead in the second.
The match turned decisively when Williams broke for 4-3 after a 13-shot rally, where she showed incredible athleticism to get to a couple of shots that would have defied most players.
Seven minutes later, she wrapped up the contest with a huge forehand, her 24th winner.
“My feeling after this match is that I was not that far [away], but she was stronger in the important moments,” Halep said. “I’m not that disappointed with myself.”
Williams has not landed one of the game’s major prizes since her seventh title at Melbourne Park in 2017, with Halep’s victory in the 2019 Wimbledon final denying her one opportunity to match Margaret Court’s record.
After gaining a measure of revenge for that defeat, Williams has the chance to avenge another when she plays Osaka, who won the 2018 US Open final between the two.
“I feel this is a great opportunity for me just to do my best in the first Grand Slam of the year,” she said.
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