Hsieh Su-Wei and Elise Mertens are keeping the BNP Paribas Open title in the family. The No.2 seeds lost only one set en route to their second team title, defeating Veronika Kudermetova and Elena Rybakina, 7-6(1), 6-3 in the final. Along with a Wimbledon title four months ago, Hsieh and Mertens' success in the California desert also sealed their qualifying spot for the Akron WTA Finals in Guadalajara.
Hsieh and Mertens have won the past two Indian Wells titles, but with different partners. Mertens won in 2019 with Aryna Sabalenka, and Hsieh won in 2018 with Barbora Strycova. The team went through a tough draw, securing wins over No.3 seeds Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara, along with navigating past a slew of talented duos in Bethania Mattek-Sands and Iga Swiatek, and Coco Gauff and Leyla Fernandez.
The keys to Hsieh and Mertens' tournament? A back-from-the-brink win from a set and 1-4 down to Mattek-Sands and Swiatek in the Round of 16 and ... a dragon hat.
"This is from the physio room," Hsieh told the fans after their quarterfinal win. "They've been helping us the whole year. They're working so hard. They give me this yesterday. The girl was wearing this, it was her birthday. She request and I thought 'Ok, I'll do it.'"
As is the best course of action when paired with the always unexpected Hsieh, Mertens just went with it.
"Before the quarterfinals, I came outside and she was jumping around," Mertens said. "What is this? With the dragon hat on. I have to laugh so hard. But before the quarterfinals, it kind of gives you a lot to relax about."
Hsieh and Mertens sat down with WTA Insider after their title run to talk about their week in the California desert and celebrate their impending qualification for the WTA Finals.
WTA Insider: How much was qualifying for the WTA Finals on your mind this week?
Mertens: Well for me, I don't really look at it. You were looking at it maybe.
Hsieh: I was thinking about Charlize Theron's perfume video. She walks like this [imitates exaggerated catwalk walk].
Mertens: So you're going to do that for the finals when we go up?
Hsieh: No, no. I was thinking that I definitely need to go to Mexico because I've never been there. I wasn't really counting the points, but I was thinking I need to try to make it. If I don't make it, then I need to find another tournament to try to make another team not make it and then we make it. There was Plan A, Plan B, Plan C.
Mertens: But Plan A was enough. I just try to focus on the tournaments. If you do well, you'll get the points. But I knew that we were in the fourth position before, but I'm not really into counting. It makes it too complicated. I was focusing on the tennis itself.
WTA Insider: From the start of the season to now, what has been the evolution of your partnership? What are the adjustments that you had to make to play well together?
Hsieh: The beginning was a little bit confusing because we switched partners, and I don't know how much I can talk about the game, so I stayed a little bit quiet, see what's going on.
Now we played more matches and we talked more. Now we know each other much more, how we're going to move, how we're going to cover each other. It's going better and better.
If you wonder how the warm up went before the match 🤣❤️ pic.twitter.com/JyL1JvRNFK— Elise Mertens (@elise_mertens) October 13, 2021
WTA Insider: How about you, Elise? Were there any key tactical changes help your team to gel?
Mertens: Well I'm not going to tell any secrets.
Hsieh: Oh! I know one: "Elise! Run!"
Mertens: Yeah, she always tells me to run to everything [laughs].
But I think if I keep good pressure, she's a magician at the net. She can do her thing and she's very good.
WTA Insider: In the Round of 16, you came back from a set and 1-4 down to defeat Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Iga Swiatek, 1-6, 6-4, 10-8. You didn't lose a set after that. What was the key to turning that match around?
Hsieh: It's very strange because during the practice, it was maybe my best practice of the year. I was hitting every shot in the court. I said, "Oh! I'm getting so much better! Today I can do good baseline!" And then when I went on the court I was missing from the line, one more, two more, three more. I was like, "Ok, I was hitting the ball really good and I will keep trying." And then Elise said, "OK, you should step back."
Mertens: There was a lot of wind. At practice, there was no wind and then two hours later there was a lot of wind. So it was different.
Hsieh: The key is still Elise.
Mertens: No, I'm not the key.
Mertens: I'm not the key (laughs).
WTA Insider: What is the most satisfying thing about this title for you?
Mertens: At Wimbledon we had a big one, so to win another big one together is very special. And because of that second round, we turned it around, and we can do it and still win that match. Having a very tough draw and getting the win gives you a lot of satisfaction. The teamwork we did this week and all these weeks, we actually did a lot of doubles practice, which I never do. You get to know each other a lot and I just think it clicked this week.
WTA Insider: Su-Wei, we know how much you love to travel and eat local cuisines. You're a big foodie. Now that you've qualified for Guadalajara, is there anything in particular that you're looking forward to?
Hsieh: I've never been, so if any of you guys have good ideas, message me on IG or Facebook.
WTA Insider: Now that you've qualified, is the plan to rest until Guadalajara?
Mertens: For me, I'll take a week off and see from there. I'll definitely play Billie Jean King Cup and the Finals. We still have a few weeks go.
Hsieh: I want to go home but there's a quarantine so I will wait a little bit because two weeks of quarantine and one week of soft control doesn't look very fun. And you have to stay in a hotel. So I will stay in Paris and practice, get ready, and wait for Elise to come to Mexico.