Photo by FOXSports. com, Jan. 23/18

Photo by FOXSports. com, Jan. 23/18

Su-Wei Hsieh’s Unconventional Style Delights Fans

On January 21 at the Australian Open,  Su-Wei Hsieh of Taiwan took on the highly favored Angelique Kerber of Germany on the Rod Laver arena.  The result, to the surprise of many,  was a close and highly entertaining match. Su-Wei Hsieh gave Kerber, and fans, a two-hour battle to remember.  Even the TV announcers were baffled by Su-Wei’s success, at one point describing her technique as “club level”, and her clothing as lacking labels.

Between the announcers AND the tennis, this was one of the most entertaining women’s matches of the tournament.  Other writers’ comments confirm the sentiment:

“A quirky magic”

“No one plays tennis like Hsieh”

“She made it look easy”

“Intelligent and creative ”

“A bewitching combination of unorthodox double-handed strokes and clever spin.”

“The first 90 minutes of that match were some of the most fun I’ve ever had with tennis”

(Ben Rothenberg tweet, January 21)

Hsieh’s style was refreshing for fans of women’s pro tennis, where steely looks, screams and grunts, and bashing ground strokes are the meat and potatoes of matches. The match began with Hsieh commanding the first set at 6-4, a strong start.  In the second set, Hsieh had her chances, but Kerber pulled out the victory at 7-5 to force a third set.  The swelling tide of Kerber continued in the third set, and she took it handily at 6-2, with Hsieh fighting fatigued.  No wonder she was tired.  Hsieh had played eight days in a row between singles and doubles events.  After the Kerber match, she continued her drive to the semi-finals  in doubles with long-time partner Peng Shui of China, making ten consecutive days of match play.

What was so refreshing about Hsieh?
  • Demeanor—She looks relaxed and has fun on the court.  Her post-match press conference was upbeat.
  • Two-handed forehand and backhand—Her elbows barely leave her side.  Her stroke is like a forearm roundhouse on both sides.
  • One-handed forehand and backhand—If the ball is too far away, she easily transitions from two-handed to one-handed strokes.
  • Drop-shot overheads—She can smash a high ball, or she can drop it just over the net, surprise!
  • Winners to back corners—She hits the back corners at will with a medium-paced ball.
  • Efficient movement—At times she looks attached to the middle of the court.  When necessary, she can run a ball down as well as anyone.
  • Free style—During the post-match press conference she referred to “Su-wei style”, doing what comes naturally, without a game plan.
  • Variety—She can spin, slice, drop, drive, smash and place.
  • Box—A mix of gender, age, and ethnicity, along with one super-fan who was a go-to for the cameras.
Who is this girl?  Quick facts about Su-Wei Hsieh.
  • Same height as Kerber at 5’7”, but weighs twenty-five pounds less tat 125 pounds.
  • Ranked 88 in singles and 34 in doubles at the time of the Australian Open.
  • Turned pro in 2000.
  • 32 years old.
  • Highest singles ranking of #25 in 2012, and highest doubles ranking of #1 one in 2014.
  • To reach the Kerber match in the Round of 16, she won against Muguruza in the 2nd round (7-6, 6-4), and Radwanska in the third round (6-2, 7-5).
  • Only other top 10 singles win before the AO was against Johanna Konta in the 2017 French Open.
  • Best previous singles result at the AO was fourth round in 2008, ten years ago.

That week at the AO, Su-Wei Hsieh was joined in the Round of 16 by Asian players Naomi Osaka of Japan (women’s) and Hyeon Chung of South Korea (men’s).  Earlier, En Shuo Liang from Taiwan had taken first place in girls’ singles.  This Asian momentum is attributed to Li Na, the first Asian player to win a Grand Slam title at the French Open in 2011, repeating three years later at the Australian Open.  If the Hsieh/Kerber match is an indication, Asian players will boost the tour’s entertainment value this year.

Su-Wei Hsieh’s memorable performance at the AO was further acclaimed this week as she was named the WTA  Breakthrough Player of the Month for January 2018, as  voted  by fans.  Her “club level” technique has served her well.  For tennis, The Kerber/Hsieh match showcased the diversity in technique, style, personality and country that makes this the best sport in the world.