WASHINGTON, D.C., USA -- "Don't tell me her age," a jocular Hsieh Su-wei said to the press about her next opponent, after her second-round match at the Citi Open. "I don't want to know this."
Hsieh's wariness is not without merit. The No.4 seed had earlier survived an epic nightcap with 18-year-old Russian qualifier Varvara Gracheva, emerging the victor in a topsy-turvy match after a final-set tiebreak. Hsieh's next opponent is even younger: 17-year-old American Caty McNally.
As the 33-year-old from Chinese Taipei continues her storied career, she is contending with new names like Gracheva, who had claimed her first-ever WTA main-draw victory in the first round in Washington, and McNally, who is into her first-ever WTA quarterfinal.
"[Gracheva gave] me some pressure, and I give myself some pressure," Hsieh said, during her press conference. "So I tried to handle the pressure on the court, and sometimes she managed it pretty well, and sometimes she'd get me."
Hsieh, the only seed to make it into the quarterfinals, is the highest-ranked remaining player in the mix of an event which has seen breakout singles showings by Gracheva, McNally, and 17-year-old Hailey Baptiste, as well as doubles success from 15-year-old Wimbledon sensation Coco Gauff.
— WTA (@WTA) August 2, 2019
Slightly lost in the shuffle is the fact that Hsieh was once a teenage prodigy herself. In the 2001 calendar year, then-15-year-old Hsieh picked up five ITF and Challenger titles, winning 28 consecutive matches in the span of those events.
Hsieh transitioned into WTA events by the end of that year, and reached the semifinals at Bali and the quarterfinals at Pattaya City to cap that breakthrough season. Yet, looking back, Hsieh thinks things have changed between her own teenage days on tour and those of the young players today.
"The new generation is different from my generation because now they are more powerful and they have better assistants to help them, and you can see there are so many young girls coming on the tour that play really well," says Hsieh.
"They know every shot, they can serve with speed," Hsieh continued. "I don't want to see the number on the [service speed] board!"
Regardless of what new challengers await her, Hsieh is reveling in her career upswing over the last few years, most recently hitting a new milestone last month at Wimbledon by winning the doubles title with Barbora Strycova.
"You know, after I have two Grand Slam doubles [titles], I was thinking I would not get too excited after I win another one," said Hsieh, who won 2013 Wimbledon and 2014 Roland Garros with Peng Shuai. "But that was pretty exciting!"
— WTA (@WTA) August 2, 2019
"I don't know, but I was, like, surprised," said Hsieh. "It was an amazing moment to win again with Barbora, because we were helping each other and supporting each other and we were smiling on the court. Everything was really, really good.
"Even when we were not doing good, like at Roland Garros, we would say, 'It's okay, we had fun, we enjoyed it.' And it was a lot of fun with Barbora, yes."
The Wimbledon title boosted Strycova to WTA Doubles World No.1 for the first time, which was a position Hsieh had previously hit in 2014. "Before the match, I was thinking, 'Wow, [Strycova is] going to be No. 1 if we win,'" said Hsieh. "But when I'd go on the court, I was very focused, so that's very good."
Hsieh contends she has no real recollection of her own time at the summit of the women's doubles rankings, which she also claimed when asked about it at Wimbledon. "That was a long time ago," she smiled.
For now, while other players are setting technical or results-oriented targets for the rest of the hardcourt season, the experienced Hsieh has more universally relatable goals for the North American swing.
"Sleep good, eat good, and I hope I can go to the museum and the zoo, and try to find a steak to eat," Hsieh stated matter-of-factly. "Steak is famous American food, right?"