MADRID -- Hsieh Su-Wei, one of the craftiest and most unique shot-makers in the game, is back. The 37-year-old from Chinese Taipei has been keeping a low profile since she opted to put a pause on her career after the 2021 season to give her body a well-earned rest after 20 years of non-stop play on the Hologic WTA Tour.
But the former doubles No.1 and Top 30 singles player returned to the tour this week at the Mutua Madrid Open, where she re-paired with Barbora Strycova in the doubles competition. The duo won their opening match, a 1-6, 6-2, [10-3] win over Latisha Chan and Chan Hao-Ching.
Highlights: Hsieh/Strycova victorious in return to Madrid
"I didn't play for a long time," Hsieh told WTA Insider in Madrid. "I started to practice on clay when I arrived here. I was not expecting to win because it's complicated and strange when you are off the court for a long time."
Picking up where they left off in Madrid 🤜🤛@BaraStrycova and Hsieh Su-wei win their opening match, 1-6, 6-2, [10-3]! #MMOPEN pic.twitter.com/74jlrCIc31— wta (@WTA) April 29, 2023
Hsieh's last singles match came at 2021 Courmayeur. She played her last doubles match with Elise Mertens in the final of the WTA Finals in Guadalajara.
So what in the world has Hsieh been up to for the past 18 months?
"I was staying home, cutting my flowers, fixing my plants," Hsieh said. "So it was a very relaxing time at home.
"I tried to recover from the injury from 2019, because I was waiting for two years and there was no recovery. So after the WTA Finals I decided to stop. I wanted to rest a little bit because I still wanted to come back to play singles."
Hsieh says she never felt far away from the tour. Through Iga Swiatek's 37-match win streak, Ons Jabeur's ascension and the minting of two new major champions in her absence, Hsieh said she had a front-row seat.
"We bought a big TV, so every time we watched on TV we were next to the players," Hsieh said. "We saw everyone very clearly on the TV.
"So I don't feel like I'm out. I was beside all these girls all the time."
In her final lap, Strycova finds balance between parenting and tennis
Asked if she rushed her comeback in order to reteam with Strycova on the Czech's retirement tour, Hsieh said no. In fact, she could have come back even sooner. But her boyfriend and coach, Frederic Aniere, took another job and could no longer travel. Her brother, who also coached her throughout her career, had another child. All of a sudden, Hsieh was staring at the prospect of trying to mount a comeback all by herself.
"To play singles you can't go back and travel by yourself. It's not possible to get back to the high level," she said. "Even with a coach it's hard to get to the high level because it's very competitive and there are so many new girls.
"So I talked to some friends and I said 'OK, if you will travel with me then I will come back to play.' She said 'Ok!' I was not expecting it like this.
"This is the story of how I came back fast. Otherwise, I would keep searching and waiting for someone to travel with."
In addition to Madrid, Hsieh will play alongside Strycova in doubles as the 37-year-old Czech winds her way toward her last professional tournament at the US Open.
As for her own singles comeback, Hsieh says the details are still up in the air.
"I will try to play singles but I will start slow because I look young, but my age is not young," Hsieh said. "So I come back for the doubles first, enjoy a little bit, get in the rhythm of the match and then slowly I will play singles.
"I will do slowly and enjoy. I will eat all the good food. As I enjoy more, I think I will get a tiny bit better and better. I hope so."
There's only one Su-Wei' - Hsieh's carefree spirit leaves its mark in Melbourne
For now, Hsieh is getting herself reacquainted with tour life. One of the tour's consummate foodies, she's already eating her way through the Spanish capital, indulging in tapas, jamon iberico and baby octopus.
"When I came back I felt fresh and young like when you just start the tour," Hsieh said. "When I was 16, I was playing non-stop so I never felt so fresh.
"There's a lot of young girls coming. I need to check them out. When I came on the tour I was 14 or 15 years old. Now I'm one of the oldest on the tour."
Whether Hsieh's singles return begins on the WTA Tour or the ITF Tour simply depends on where she can get in. She was ranked No.106 at the end of the 2021 season.
"Probably you will see me anywhere," Hsieh said. "So please, everyone give me some wild cards! It would be my pleasure to come! Please!"