DUBAI, UAE - Hsieh Su-wei has made plenty of new fans this week at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, and treated the Centre Court crowd to not one, but two exciting matches on Saturday. As the former WTA Doubles No.1 pushed Petra Kvitova to the brink, partner Barbora Strycova nervously watched from the players area.
“I saw all of it,” she said later that night. “It was a great match at a high level. It was physically tough for Su-wei, but she was so ready on the court for doubles.”
Strycova brough Hsieh back on court after her narrow loss to the two-time Wimbledon winner and together the two tacticians played pitch perfect tennis, dismantling Qatar Total Open champions Latisha Chan and sister Chan Hao-Ching, 6-2, 6-1 to surge into the final in 55 minutes flat.
“I thought we played one of our best matches of the tournament,” Strycova said as a loquacious Hsieh joined her in the mixed zone.
“I have a good partner so I wasn’t worried too much on the court!” she said, adding, “I let my partner control me on the court. If I’m a little tired and cannot think, I say, ‘Ok, you’re going to control me!’
“She does that really well, like yesterday she said, ‘Go down the line!’ and I did, and I won the point, so good job, Barbora!”
The two friends, who were playing just their second tournament since pairing up to win last year’s BNP Paribas Open, lean in and laugh. Though they didn’t play again in 2018, a reunion has been in the works since the fall when Strycova learned then-partner and childhood friend Andrea Sestini Hlavackova was expecting a child of her own.
“I knew very early that Andi was pregnant, but I was so happy for her because it’s very emotional for me,” she said last week in Doha. “As you know, we’ve known each other since we were babies, and now she’s going to be a mother. It’s a huge thing for me, and I’m very happy for her.
“I spoke with Su-wei in November, but she was set for the Australian Open. We said we would try for the Middle East tournaments and America, so I look forward to playing with her a lot. We know each other very well, and from last year, winning Indian Wells, we have good experience. I can’t wait!”
Strycova and Hsieh fell in their first match in Doha but have been on fire in Dubai, beating both of last week’s finalists in back-to-back matches to book a championship encounter with Lucie Hradecka and Ekaterina Makarova.
“At the beginning, it’s tough when you haven’t played with someone for such a long time, and you need to get used to it. We’re having more and more matches, so we know what to expect from each other. It’s great.”
Hradecka and Makarova have been a formidable duo since pairing up last summer, winning the Western & Southern Open in their first week as a pair in seven years, and reached their first final of 2019, upsetting No.3 seeds Gabriela Dabrowski and Xu Yi-Fan in a match tie-break en route.
“They’re big hitters, and I’ve never played against this couple, but I’ve played both of them with different partners,” Strycova said.
“We just have to be ready for big shots, and just try to have fun, and play some tricky tennis!”
Hsieh nodded, adding in inimitable fashion:
“They’re a great team, so we’ll just try our best!”