Twenty years into her pro career—one that includes three Grand Slam doubles titles and the current No. 1 ranking—Hsieh Su-Wei has done something she's never done: reached a Grand Slam quarterfinal in singles.
To do so, the 35-year-old from Chinese Taipei dismissed No. 19-seeded Market Vondrousova with remarkable ease, 6-4, 6-2, on Sunday in Margaret Court Arena.
Staying true to her unique style, Hsieh grabbed an early break from the start of the match, and kept her nose out in front throughout the 68-minute bout. She dictated play with her superior court positioning and by out-slicing Vondrousova, who was ruffled from the very first game.
Hsieh and Melbourne have long been a love story. She first made the fourth round of the Australian Open 13 years ago, coming through qualifying. She’d accomplish the same feat in Melbourne ten years later, in 2018, picking up a lot of attention for her charming interviews, unpredictable game style, positive attitude and lack of clothing sponsor. Everyone expected her to get snatched up by...someone—yet three years later, Hsieh is still repping multiple clothing labels (New Balance, Adidas and Nike).
She’s unperturbed by that, and by pretty much everything else. Maybe that's because she looks so much at home on one of tennis' biggest stages. Or because she's practically an adopted Aussie, after hiring Paul McNamee in 2011, and spending her off-seasons training Down Under. Her team has only gotten more Australian since.
“I have an Australian coach, Australian fitness coach, Australian massage [therapist], Australian hitting partner, so, its extra special,” Hsieh said.
Though she played Vondrousova just last month, winning in a third-set tie-break, she relied on her team to get her prepared once again.
"I know I had played her, but I don't remember how she played, so I was like, umm OK," Hsieh said on court.
As for what's next—Naomi Osaka, after a remarkable win over Garbine Muguruza—Hsieh had this to say:
"I need to cool down first."
And she knows exactly where to go for her post-match meal, even if it’s back to UberEats.
“I know where to eat good Korean in Chinatown,” she said. “And good ramen and good Chinese food. Good Thai, good Australian, good Greek. I’m not worried about my tennis. If I don’t play good, I go enjoy some good food here. So I’m quite happy to have the tennis life here.”
Her game style reflects her attitude.
"She's a free spirit," her coach McNamee told press. "It's important that she's allowed to express herself. That's the same with her tennis. It kind of reflects the way she is off the court. She kind of acts on a whim sometimes, doesn't like to plan too far ahead."
The world No. 71 calls her strategy “Su-Wei style,” and it consists of slices, spins, slaps and many drop shots, often confusing her opponents while switching hands on her two-handed strokes. Vondrousova is also no stranger to the drop shot, as the talented lefty loves to dupe her opponents with a pace switch-up. But only one of the two players had it clicking today.
Fourteen years older than her 21-year-old Czech opponent, Hsieh moves casually on court, especially off her serve, but it’s not lack of effort: she knows exactly where to stand to dictate the point. Time after time she pulled Vondrousova around the court and finished things off with a snappy crosscourt backhand.
"She's so precise the way she plays," McNamee said. "No one can redirect traffic as well as she can on both sides. Doesn't matter which way it's coming from, she can redirect it either way."
Though a 2019 Roland Garros finalist, Vondrousva handled Hsieh's tactics with a lack of maturity and experience. The world No. 20’s body language was negative from the very start, looking exasperated at Hsieh’s trickery and later, grimacing in pain. Any long point had her bent over at the waist, though in her defense, she had both upper legs taped.
Vondrousova's Melbourne bid ends here, as she lost in the second round in doubles. Hsieh, who also lost in the second round of doubles, will move on in this draw, soaking in her milestone victory as only she can.
"For me, I mean, I don't really care I win or I lose," she said. "I just try my best and play the game. All the girl, they play different games. I want to try to find a way and try to get into the game. At least I try. If I lose, I don't lose anything, is no problem for me."