Hsieh Su-Wei is through to the quarterfinals at a major for the first time in her career. The Taiwanese 35-year-old had reached the round of 16 twice, but her longtime coach Paul McNamee always believed that she had the game to push even deeper.
On Sunday, Hsieh knocked out No. 19 seed Marketa Vondrousova in convincing fashion to become the oldest woman to make her Grand Slam singles quarterfinal debut.
“There’s only one Su-Wei,” McNamee said in press, following her victory.
McNamee revealed the world No. 71 is a very unique character and it wasn’t always a seamless process when it came to coaching the crafty competitor.
“There’s times when she’s kind of focused and other times when she really is not motivated at all to practice,” McNamee said. “I’ve experienced it where she’ll just go and hit one or two balls, didn’t hit them well, that’s it, she won’t play any more that day. Wasn’t feeling it.”
The key according to McNamee is to not box her in and let her free spirit flow. He is now used to her oddities, which includes never getting her racquets restrung. According to McNamee, she goes years without breaking strings due to hitting purely in the center of her racquet.
“I mean, she hadn’t broken a string for three years. You tell me a player that uses the same racquet for three years and doesn’t change the racquet. Now, she has to buy racquets, which is very unusual,” McNamee said.
Hsieh who is wearing Nike, New Balance and Adidas, has no current sponsors and this explains why she looks like “Times Square” out on the court. When McNamee first started coaching the current doubles No. 1 she was ranked No. 40 in doubles and in somewhere in the 300s for singles, but he thought she had the best finishing volleys in the world.
After winning her first doubles major at Wimbledon with Peng Shuai in 2013, the two traveled to Budapest and McNamee found out that she had never gone on a run.
“It was amusing,” the Aussie said.
McNamee had to adjust quickly to Hsieh’s oddities which had it’s fair share of challenges, but the two have achieved so much as a team even though it’s been a very sporadic partnership.
“The hard thing for me was I was kind of super professional, I guess, right?” the former Australian Open tourament director said. “I worked hard. I’d warmed down with a file-mile run, 8K run, that was the warm-down. She’d never been on a run. Just getting used to someone different.”
Though unusual, he lets her be herself both on and off the court.
“He don’t try to change too much my stuff, but he give me some idea and try to help me to improve my game,” Hsieh said. “I was working with him for years before, so we know how we work together. It’s quite comfortable when every time I work with him.”
At age 35, Hsieh Su-wei is the oldest woman in the Open era to make her Grand Slam singles quarterfinal debut.
Great to see different types of game style thriving despite all the power that today’s rackets and strings (and athletes) can produce. pic.twitter.com/HoR0LSHEIL
— Christopher Clarey (@christophclarey) February 14, 2021
Hsieh will take on Naomi Osaka for a spot in the semifinals. The two have faced each other on five occasions with Osaka coming out on top in four of them. However, it’s never been easy for the three-time Grand Slam champion as four out of the five clashes have gone the distance.
“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 as her,” Osaka said. “Because my mind can’t fathom the choices she makes when she’s on the court. It’s so fun to watch. It’s not fun to play, but it’s really fun to watch.”
For Hsieh it’s less about the winning and more about enjoying the moment.
“I want to try to find a way and try to get into the game,” she said. “At least I try. If I lose, I don’t lose anything. Is no problem for me.”