MELBOURNE, Australia — The tennis court docket turns into a enjoyable home mirror when the participant throughout the online is Hsieh Su-Wei, the queen of the overhead drop shot, whose depraved spins, intelligent angles and two-handed photographs from each side can rattle her opponents.
Naomi Osaka, a three-time Grand Slam champion, sighed audibly on Sunday when knowledgeable that her reward for warding off two match factors towards Garbiñe Muguruza was a gathering with Hsieh, who clinched her place within the quarterfinals whereas Osaka was struggling to remedy the issue that was Muguruza.
“She’s one of those players that, for me, if it was a video game, I would want to select her character just to play her,” Osaka, the 2019 champion, stated. “Because my mind can’t fathom the choices she makes when she’s on the court.”
Osaka, 23, added, “It’s not fun to play her, but it’s really fun to watch.”
Hsieh, 35, is extra achieved in doubles, the place she and her accomplice, Barbora Strycova, arrived at Melbourne Park as the highest seeds and exited within the second spherical. A 3-time Grand Slam champion in doubles, Hsieh had by no means superior to the quarterfinals in singles in 37 prior Grand Slam singles foremost draw appearances.
“She’s probably going to smash me on the court,” Hsieh stated cheerfully. “I try to play my game, do my job, see what happens.”
Hsieh has a resting pleased face, however behind the smile lurks a steely competitor. She has performed Osaka 5 instances, and 4 of the matches have gone three units, together with Hsieh’s lone win, within the third spherical in Miami in 2019 when Osaka was the world No. 1.
Asked what makes taking part in Hsieh such a problem, Osaka stated, “Have you watched her play?” She laughed. “It’s like, ‘What?’”
She added, “I know that for me, whenever I play her I just have to expect everything.”
The showdown between Hsieh of Taiwan and Osaka of Japan, is a research in contrasts. Osaka creates tempo and Hsieh redirects it. Osaka is a advertising magnet who added Louis Vuitton, Tag Heuer and Workday to her endorsement portfolio forward of the Australian Open. Hsieh has no sponsors, partly by design.
“I’d rather stay simple,” stated Hsieh, whose event routine of buying discounted tennis put on has been upended by the statewide lockdown instituted final week.
As embodied by Osaka, the ability recreation is in vogue. But Hsieh’s extra refined model won’t ever exit of style. She is an artist that turns conference on its head with an uncommon imaginative and prescient that offers the court docket its form, the way in which a Bundt pan provides form to the batter poured into it.
“I think she has incredible hands and incredible eyes,” stated Serena Williams’s coach, Patrick Mouratoglou. “She sees the ball very early, seeing and anticipating a lot.”
That’s why she has such an economic system of motion, he added, “and why she’s so difficult to play.”
For the previous three weeks, the difficult job of getting ready the artful Hsieh for her matches has fallen to Andrew Whittington, who superior to the semifinals in males’s doubles at the 2017 Australian Open and has cracked the highest 200 in singles.
On a sunny Monday on Court 17, onerous towards the tram tracks on the jap periphery of the grounds, Whittington spent shut to an hour feeding Hsieh the onerous, flat, well-placed serves which might be Osaka’s signature.
Hsieh’s coach, Paul McNamee, instructed Whittington to maintain nothing again. After Hsieh failed to get her racket on a ball to her backhand, McNamee sidled up to Hsieh and stated she can be seeing that serve so much from Osaka.
Hsieh nodded solemnly. Seconds later, she lifted a ball off the court docket along with her racket, turned her again to the online and hit a no-look rainbow shot again to Whittington, who might solely snort.
McNamee described Hsieh as a free spirit and stated: “You don’t want to box that spirit. You’ve got to let it rise and be free.”
Laughing, McNamee added, “I’ve learned the joy of silence a lot working with Su-Wei.”
During the previous couple of minutes of the hourlong follow, Whittington fielded serves from Hsieh, together with a couple of made underhanded. He was extra ready for these than the query she lobbed at him close to the top of the drill.
“Is my serve very slow?” she stated.
It was the uncommon occasion when she wasn’t kidding round. Sensing Hsieh’s vulnerability, Whittington moved rapidly to guarantee her that her serve is ok. Like the remainder of the arrows in her quiver, it’s deceptively sharp. Hsieh has put 71 % of her first serves in play on this event.
Hsieh’s authenticity, her guilelessness, is “what makes her so unique and so great to work with,” Whittington stated.
Whittington introduced extra tennis rackets to the hitting session than Hsieh, who typically travels with one. The ball finds the candy spot on her racket with such regularity, McNamee defined, that Hsieh went three years with out breaking a string.
An entertainer who wields her racket like a magician’s prop, Hsieh is sorry that the lockdown will shut out followers by Wednesday — and maybe longer.
“I think I just stay the same, enjoy, try to be positive,” she stated. “If I don’t win, I hope quarantine finishes very soon so I can go out to enjoy a little bit.”
Even if Osaka comes away with the win, she doubts will probably be fulfilling. In the third spherical of the 2019 Australian Open, Osaka defeated Hsieh, 5-7, 6-Four, 6-1.
It just isn’t a nice reminiscence.
“I just remember having, like, so many emotions just because I felt like there wasn’t a lot of things I could control while I was playing her,” Osaka stated.
It is Hsieh’s best energy. She could make one of the best, strongest gamers really feel helpless.