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Foodie, comedian: Hsieh Su-Wei shows her sunny side

  • Ravi Ubha

When Hsieh Su-Wei steps on court at Australian Open 2021 on Sunday, she will be playing for history. 

A win over 2019 French Open finalist Marketa Vondrousova would make the bubbly 35-year-old the oldest first-time Grand Slam quarterfinalist in the Open Era. 

Hsieh knows what’s at stake but doesn’t want to dwell on it. 

“I never made a (Grand Slam) quarterfinal so I don’t think too much,” said Hsieh, who upset 2019 US Open winner Bianca Andreescu in the second round. “I just try my best.”

Here are five things you should know about Chinese Taipei’s most successful female player. 

Big wins are nothing new for her

Hsieh’s self-described “Su-Wei style” — using angles, taking the ball early, changing pace and going to the net — have flummoxed the best in the world at Grand Slams of late. 

She stunned then world No.1 Simona Halep at Wimbledon in 2018 and Garbine Muguruza at Melbourne Park months earlier. 

When Naomi Osaka won the 2019 Australian Open, she needed to fend off Hsieh in the third round in three sets, and world No.3 Karolina Pliskova only narrowly beat her at 2019 Wimbledon. 

“She hits very differently to everyone else,” Osaka said after their clash in Melbourne. “I can never really tell where she's going to put the ball.”

Sometimes, according to Hsieh, she doesn’t know where she’s going to put it until the last second!

Belinda Bencic said she had “superpowers.” 

What’s even more remarkable about her recent record is that Hsieh, who played her first Grand Slam main draw way back in 2005, only picked up her first top-10 win in 2017. 

Before ousting Andreescu this week, Hsieh got the better of former Wimbledon semifinalist Tsvetana Pironkova. And in the third round, she knocked off former French Open finalist Sara Errani.  

Did we mention that Hsieh is the current world No.1 and a Grand Slam champ in doubles? She plays with Czech Barbora Strycova. 

The Aussie connection is strong

Hsieh contested her first junior Grand Slam in Australia 21 years ago — and no, none of the five players she faced back then are still competing. 

The first of her three previous fourth rounds in Grand Slams came at the Australian Open in 2008, when she was beaten by Justine Henin, with the last coming in 2018 when Hsieh and Angelique Kerber went the distance at Rod Laver Arena. 

Former Australian Open tournament director Paul McNamee works with Hsieh — first teaming up 10 years ago — but isn’t the only local to do so. 

“I have an Australian coach, Australian fitness coach, Australian massage (therapist), Australian hittng partner, so, its extra special,” Hsieh said. 

She has also spent offseasons in Australia.

Hsieh Su-Wei is Chinese Taipei's most successful female tennis player

Comedy comes naturally to Hsieh

Hsieh doesn’t take herself too seriously and regularly draws laughs from fans and journalists alike. 

Asked about turning things around against Errani, who led their duels 3-0 and won a set 6-0 each time, Hsieh responded: “Actually, I don’t remember when I lose to someone (that way) but someone reminded me I eat a bagel every time it happens. So I said, ‘Okay, I will try to not take any bagel today.'"  

How was she feeling physically after the marathon encounter with Errani? 

Replying with a big smile and arms outstretched, Hsieh countered: “I’m still alllliiiivvvee.”

And when she was asked for her thoughts on playing with no fans during the newly imposed lockdown in Melbourne, Hsieh got serious — “I’m not worried about the crowd because I think it’s good for everyone to make sure we are all safe and to help the government to do everything good, follow the rules." She added one more thing. 

“I’m only worried about Uber Eats, if I can still get something to eat in the (hotel) room!”

Melbourne's foodie culture suits Hsieh

All this talk about bagels and Uber Eats. Yes, Hsieh is a foodie and loves Melbourne’s restaurant scene. 

“I know where to eat good Korean in Chinatown,” she said on Friday. “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.”

It hasn’t all been smooth sailing 

Things are going well for Hsieh but it hasn’t always been the case. 

Her singles ranking dropped out of the top 100 in 2017 when an ankle injury left her struggling to walk and sometimes in "torture" during matches. 

And starting off her career, Hsieh moved to Japan for three years following family issues.

“It was very important for me for the three years I stay in Japan, because at the time I was having family issues,” she said at Melbourne Park in 2018 after the win over Muguruza. 

Linking up with McNamee in the second half of her career proved a key. 

“In the first 10 years I was staying mostly in the hotel room and tennis court, like a quarantine,” she said this week. 

“So after I worked with Paul, we enjoy a lot of court time as well. We go to shopping together and we find a nice restaurant and the result is very good, so I try to find a nice restaurant to go together to enjoy something, not just tennis.”