With a loss in the first round of the Australian Open qualifications earlier this week, tennis fans said goodbye (in singles) to Su-wei Hsieh, one of the sports’ most entertaining and enigmatic players and the most decorated Taiwanese player of all time.
Looking back on a terrific career
Over the course of her impressive career, 38-year-old Hsieh brandished her racquet like a sorcerer, producing jaw-dropping shots from all corners of the court. Using two hands off both wings, Hsieh can feather the ball or pummel it. She consistently deployed both tactics to devastating effect in both singles and doubles.
It’s fitting that Hsieh would bow out of singles at the Australian Open, as it’s one of the tournaments where she produces some of her best results. In 2021, she reached the AO quarterfinals before losing to eventual champion Naomi Osaka. In doing so, at age 35, she became the first Taiwanese player (and the oldest WTA player) to reach a maiden singles quarterfinal.
Another memorable AO run came in 2018 when she dazzled crowds with successive wins over the No. 3 seed and reigning Wimbledon champion, Garbiñe Muguruza, and fellow shot-maker Agnieszka Radwańska. These back-to-back matches encapsulated Hsieh’s duality. She could flummox power players like Muguruza and Naomi Osaka (who she beat in another memorable 2019 encounter at the Miami Open when Osaka held the world No. 1 spot) and outfox one of the most cunning players on tour.
In 2013, Hsieh reached her career-high singles rank of world No. 23. While all three of her WTA Tour titles came on the hardcourts, Hsieh has proven to be a master of all surfaces.
One of the world’s best doubles players
Hsieh has won 32 doubles titles, leading her to the world No. 1 doubles ranking in 2014. Throughout her career, she has spent 47 weeks at the top spot.
Partnering with Hsieh has proved a winning strategy for the numerous players tapped to take to the doubles court with her. She’s won six Major doubles championships with four different partners, including Chinese player Peng Shuai (Wimbledon 2013 and French Open 2014), Barbora Strýcová (Wimbledon 2019 and 2023), Elise Mertens (Wimbledon 2021), Wang Xinyu (French Open 2023).
With Peng Shuai, Hsieh won the 2013 WTA Finals, and with Strýcová, she was runner-up at both the 2019 WTA Finals and the 2020 Australian Open. Hsieh has won three Indian Wells doubles titles, each with a different partner. She also reached the quarterfinals in doubles at the 2012 London Olympics with compatriot Chuang Chia-jung.
While her outward demeanor radiates calm and good humor, Hsieh is a killer on the court. She can produce shots that defy geometry and the laws of physics. Her anticipation is incredible. She is fleet of foot, robbing opponents of time and space. She’s truly everywhere at once.
Hsieh is more than her on-court success
As accomplished as she is on the court, Hsieh is doubly respected in the locker room and has charmed fans worldwide. She has always competed on her own terms. She has never had an official sponsor, perhaps due to not giving a hoot or a strained relationship with the Chinese Taipei Tennis Association. Instead, she steps on-court wearing a mash-up of logos and colors, eschewing the slick, corporate look that most players adopt as they rise in the rankings.
She’s similarly known to take an unorthodox approach to training.
Her longtime-sometime former coach Paul McNamee has praised Hsieh’s talent and instinctual, expressive approach to the game, saying she plays like she lives – with spontaneity and as a free spirit. Though she can be shy and soft-spoken in post-match interviews, Hsieh always has a twinkle in her eye and exhibits a zany energy that makes her a fan favorite.
Those who play tennis can’t help but shake their heads and smile with every unforgettable shot Hsieh produces. As we bid farewell to her singles career, we are still lucky enough to see Hsieh on the doubles court. She will partner with Elise Mertens at the 2024 Australian Open.
Main Photo Credit: Susan Mullane – USA TODAY Sports