Hsieh Su-Wei Finds Winning Way In Melbourne

Hsieh Su-Wei (photo: Natasha Morello/Tennis Australia)

MELBOURNE/WASHINGTON, February 10, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

Hsieh Su-Wei is known for beating top players in Grand Slam settings on big stages. Previously, she’s beaten Garbiñe Muguruza at the Australian Open and Simon Halep at Wimbledon. On Wednesday in the 2021 Australian Open at Melbourne Park, the 68th-ranked Hsieh from Taiwan added to her list of big upsets as she beat No. 8 seed Bianca Andrescu, 6-3, 6-2, taking advantage of six breaks of serve during their 83-minute match on Rod Laver Arena.

“I normally feel more excited to play with the better players because they have all the skills in the court,” the 35-year-old Hsieh said during her on-court interview after beating Andreescu, who was playing in her first tournament in 15 months following due to injuries and the coronavirus pandemic. “So, you need to find a way to get through and play your game. It’s not always easy.”

Next, Hsieh will face 134th-ranked Italian qualifier Sara Errani, who advanced over injured Venus Williams, 6-1, 6-0, in a matchup of veterans. The 40-year-old, seven-time Grand Slam champion valiantly played on after receiving treatment to both her right ankle and left knee during the seventh game of the match.

Despite losing in just her second match back, Andreescu remained upbeat during her post-match press conference. “She played really well. I have to give credit to her,” she said. “I definitely have to get back into the groove of things, and hopefully that will be sooner than later.”

When Tennis TourTalk asked Andreescu why Hsieh is such a challenging opponent, the 20-year-old Canadian said, “She’s good at the net. She can come in. She can literally redirect any single ball you give her. Her serve doesn’t have a lot of pace on it, but she can place it very well. … The fact that she can change the rhythm. I know I can change rhythm, too, but she’s just on another level, at least today.”

Hsieh’s take down of Andreescu with her unorthodox style – her eighth against a Top 10 player since 2017 – was the first of two involving Top 10 seeds, who were eliminated from the Australian Open on Day Three. Later on, Sorana Cirstea of Romania, who hadn’t earned a Top 10 win at a Grand Slam in nine years, upset No. 9 seed Petra Kvitova from the Czech Republic, 6-4, 1-6, 6-1, on Margaret Court Arena to advance to the third round in Melbourne for the first time since 2017.

“I’ve had a lot of matches against Petra and she’s an amazing player,” said Cirstea, who is ranked 68th and off to a 4-1 start in 2021. “She hits the ball so hard. It took me a while to adjust to the game, but once I was in there, I felt that I can beat her and I felt quite confident. I’m very happy with this win.”

The last time Cirstea had beaten a Top 10 player at a Grand Slam was back in 2012 at the Australian Open, when she defeated then-World No. 5 Samantha Stosur in the opening round. Next, she will face No. 19 seed Marketa Vondrousova. The 21st-ranked Czech advanced over 316th-ranked Canadian qualifier Rebecca Marino, 6-1, 7-5.

Halep comes back from the brink to win

No. 2 seed Simona Halep overcame a 2-5 deficit against 72nd-ranked Australian Ajla Tomljanovic in the final set of their second-round match on Margaret Court Arena Wednesday and won 4-6, 6-4, 7-5 in two hours and 34 minutes of baseline battle. There were 15 breaks of serve between the two combatants.

The victory lifted Halep into the third round at Melbourne for the fourth straight year and extended her three-set win-loss record in the Australian Open to 8-3.

Halep was asked during her post-match press conference to describe the feeling from being down 2-5 in the final set. She said: “I think I got relaxed a little bit more. I talked to my team after the match, and they told me that I should have played like I did those games, because my arms were more relaxed and the ball was going a little deeper. I didn’t realize that, but, you know, it’s good that I ended like that and I got the confidence that I still can win these tough matches.”

As for Tomljanovic, she expressed a different feeling. “Three months ago, I didn’t know if I was capable of playing a match like this,” she said after the loss. … “At the end of the day, all I wanted to do was get a win in any way, even if it was the worst tennis ever. I think that’s my emotions speaking now. I know it was a high-even match, but in the end, I lost, so that’s the dominant feeling.”

Next, Halep will face No. 32 seed Veronika Kudermetova, who defeated Varvara Gracheva, 5-7, 6-2, 6-2, in an all-Russian matchup. Kudermetova fired seven aces and hit 26 winners.

Williams moves a step closer to 24

Twenty-three-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams, seven times an Australian Open champion, reached the third round for the 19th time in 20 Melbourne appearances after beating No. 100 Nina Stojanovic of Serbia, 6-3, 6-0, in 69 minutes. The victory improved the 39-year-old Williams’ career win-loss record in second-round Grand Slam matches to a remarkable 73-2.

During her post-match press conference, the 10th-seeded American icon said, “It’s really about finding that key balance there for me.”

Next, the 39-year-old Williams will face Anastasia Potapova, 20 years her junior, for the second straight year at Melbourne. Williams beat Potapova in the first-round last year, 6-0, 6-3. The 101st-ranked Russian teenager triumphed over No. 115 Timea Babos of Hungary, 6-2, 6-4. “I couldn’t feel better than now,” said Potapova, the 2016 Wimbledon Junior girls’ singles champion. “It feels very good to be, for the first time, in the third round, especially here in Australia, the first Slam of the year. That’s incredible feelings.”

Osaka remains chill off court, dominant on it

No. 3 seed Naomi Osaka fired 10 aces and hit 23 winners en route to her 6-2, 6-3 victory over No. 43 Caroline Garcia of France during their 61-minute featured match on Rod Laver Arena Wednesday night. The Japanese superstar didn’t face a break point as she extended her winning streak to a career-best 16, which dates back a year. Since winning the 2019 US Open, Osaka is 32-3.

“As a player, you always expect to play tough matches. That’s sort of what you brace yourself for,” said Osaka during her post-match press conference. “But at the same time, you also want to be able to have the opportunity to play easier matches, like you want to play good enough for it to be easier.”

Next, Osaka will take on No. 27 Ons Jabeur of Tunisia, who needed just 65 minutes to eliminate 136th-ranked lucky loser Anna Karolina Schmiedlova of Slovakia, 6-3, 6-2. The 2020 quarterfinalist Jabeur hit six aces and 19 winners, and outpointed Schmiedlova 67-45.

Wednesday’s results

Thursday’s order of play

Around Melbourne Park

• Both No. 7 seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus and No. 14 seed Garbiñe Muguruza from Spain, each who has won a title early in 2021, moved safely into the third round. Sabalenka defeated No. 71 Daria Kasatkina, 7-6 (5), 6-3, after being a break down twice in the opening set, while Muguruza advanced with a 6-3, 6-1 win over 127th-ranked Russian qualifier Liudmila Samsonova in 64 minutes.

“I am very happy the way I played,” Muguruza said. “I had an opponent that I didn’t know much. We haven’t met before. It’s not often that you play someone you don’t know anything about.”

Next, the 2020 Australian Open finalist Muguruza will match up against No. 81 Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan, who advanced over No 63 Bernarda Pera of the United States, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.

• No. 15 seed Iga Swiatek of Poland extended her Grand Slam match-winning streak to nine straight after beating No. 76 Camila Giorgi of Italy, 6-2, 6-4 on the strength of 17 winners in 80 minutes. It leveled her career head-to-head at 1-1 with Giorgi, who committed 31 unforced errors Swiatek has now won 18 consecutive Grand Slam sets dating back to the start of last year’s French Open. Next, Swiatek will face No. 43 Fiona Ferro of France, who upset No. 17 seed Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan, 6-4, 6-4.

• Meanwhile, 99th-ranked Ann Li of the United States came from being in strict quarantine and has done nothing but win. Last week, she reached the semifinals of the Grampians Trophy and this week? She’s reached the third round after beating No. 53 Alizé Cornet of France, 6-2, 7-6 (6). From two set points down, Li won the last four points on the second-set tiebreak to advance. Next, she faces Sabalenka.

“She has only five letters in her name, but she learning how to win matches,” said Tennis Channel Insider Jon Wertheim.

What they’re saying

Simona Halep, who faced Aussie Ajla Tomljanovic in Margaret Court Arena on the Australian Open atmosphere: “Yeah, it’s great to have crowd. It’s great to feel that energy. Today I felt a little bit against me, because at 5-2 I felt like everybody is coming over my shoulders (smiling).

“But it was good. I felt the energy from them, and even if was not 100 percent for me, I felt it as a positive thing.

“So, I got that good vibe, and I just could fight more.”