Hsieh Su-Wei is the Rubik’s Cube of opponents, a Grand Slam seed slayer who now counts Bianca Andreescu among her victims following a second-round upset on Wednesday.
The 35-year-old from Chinese Taipei left the eighth seed at a complete loss on how to solve the puzzle on Rod Laver Arena as the 2019 US Open champ slid to a 6-3 6-2 defeat.
The world No.71 was a name that no player wanted to draw early at a major given the reputation she had built for toppling the seeds.
Coming into her second clash with the Canadian, she had already felled seven top 10 opponents from nine showdowns.
Seven times she had taken down a seed at the majors.
Andreescu – playing her first tournament in 15 months after missing the entire 2020 season due to left knee injury – became number eight.
“It’s strange, I normally feel more excited playing a seeded player because you know they have all the skill on the court and (are) better than any of the other girls,” Hsieh said.
“I think that it’s a couple of years ago I played top 10 players for many, many, many years, and then I feel there’s a breakthrough and I feel more comfortable right now.”
The 20-year-old Andreescu had beaten Hsieh in their only previous encounter, in the semifinals en route to her first tour final in Auckland in 2019.
She went on to add her maiden Grand Slam trophy at the US Open that year before a torn meniscus in her left knee derailed her momentum.
After narrowly finding a way past ‘fellow Romanian’, lucky loser Mihaela Buzarnescu, in the opening round, Andreescu had to back up and face arguably the most unpredictable, efficient and unorthodox opponent in the draw.
Dealing with so much of the unexpected from Hsieh – physically and mentally – took its toll.
Hsieh broke in the opening game and looked the more comfortable of the two as she nabbed the double break on a double fault from the Canadian for 3-0.
Andreescu finally began to find some range as she pummelled a pair of second serve returns to save set points at 2-5 and landed her first break of the match.
There was no risk of Hsieh having to attempt to serve it out a second time as she broke to take the opening set in 40 minutes.
Back to the wall, the Canadian rebounded with a love break on back-to-back return winners for 1-3 in the second set, but the momentum switch was fleeting.
Hsieh broke again for 4-2 and flattened a sublime double-handed forehand into the corner to bring up two match points on the Canadian’s serve.
The result was complete after an hour and 25 minutes on Andreescu’s fifth double fault.
The unseeded Hsieh did a remarkable job of keeping the ball away from the middle of the court, tangling up her opponent and fearlessly sneaking in to pick off volleys.
The former world No.23 cared little that court conditions seemed to be playing faster at AO2021.
“I was playing at the US Open, hard court, but when I was not playing, one day I was practising in Central Park – clay court,” Hsieh laughed. “So actually I don’t have much feeling with the court.”
Venus Williams or Sara Errani are next in line tasked with solving the Rubik’s Cube.
The contrast in strategies will be stark, not that Hsieh cares either way.
“They haven’t played yet, right?” Hsieh said. “So we don’t worry about this until the result come out. I leave it to my coach.”
Source: Dan Imhoff