HIROSHIMA, Japan -- No.1 seed and defending champion Hsieh Su-wei of Chinese Taipei needed to use all of her wiles to overcome a stern test from Priscilla Hon of Australia on Wednesday and move into the Hana-Cupid Japan Women's Open quarterfinals with a 1-6, 7-6(2), 7-5 win.
Hon served for the match twice in the second set and once more in the third set, but World No.29 Hsieh staved off those chances each time to grind out a victory after two hours and ten minutes of topsy-turvy action and deny World No.123 Hon her first WTA quarterfinal of the season.
"In the first set, [Hon] was hitting so well, and I had no rhythm," Hsieh said, following the match. "I just couldn’t get my game and style going. It was not a good situation for me! But the next two sets I got going."
33-year-old Hsieh, who also had a three-set tussle in her opening round, shook off a commanding first set by Hon and finished the match with a 73 percent success rate on Hon's second serve. Hon had 49 winners to Hsieh's 26, but the Australian ended the encounter with 55 unforced errors to Hsieh's 29.
Top seed Hsieh will meet Nao Hibino of Japan in the elite eight. Hibino advanced earlier on Wednesday when her opponent, 2017 champion and No.6 seed Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan, retired from their match while trailing, 6-1, 3-2, due to a lower back injury.
"I’m not thinking about that too much right now, but [Hibino is] a good player," Hsieh stated. "I need to recover, eat good, sleep good, prevent injuries – that’s the best way to prepare. I am slowly picking up my game this week, so let's hope it gets going again for the match."
In the first set, the power game of Hon was in impeccable form. Hon earned breaks in Hsieh’s first two service games, building a 4-0 lead by cracking sterling service returns at the top seed, many of which whizzed by Hsieh for winners. During this run by Hon, the No.1 seed was left unable to deploy the crafty play which has pulled her to numerous upsets of Top 10 players.
After Hon fired an ace to hold for 5-0, Hsieh finally found her way onto the scoreboard, holding at love for 5-1. That, however, did not derail the confident Australian, who started the following game with an ace and ended it with a forehand winner that dribbled over the netcord, holding at love to attain the one-set lead after just 20 minutes.
Following a first set which saw her hit 11 winners to just five unforced errors, Hon kept her momentum rolling, breaking Hsieh in the opening game of the second set with a forehand return winner on break point. Hsieh, however, finally broke Hon for the first time in the clash, leveling the set at 2-2 as the Australian’s unforced error count began to mount.
A closely contested second-set tussle suddenly started: Hon went up a break three more times, but Hsieh broke back immediately in each instance. The Australian served for the match at 5-4, but Hsieh converted her third break point of that game with a dropshot winner. Hon broke serve once more to serve for the win again at 6-5, but Hsieh used another dropshot to send the set to a tiebreak.
Hon fired another return winner to open the breaker, but Hsieh went on a run of points after that, reaching 4-1 with a backhand crosscourt winner. Hon saw many of her shots go long in the tiebreak, and one forehand in particular allowed Hsieh to reach 6-2 and hold four set points. On the first, one more Hon return flew long, and Hsieh had eked out the second set to tie up the tilt.
21-year-old Hon kept fighting, saving three break points in her first two service games of the final set with stellar serving en route to 2-2. The Australian was rewarded for her grit by earning the first service break of the decider to go up 4-2. Hsieh again got back on serve for 4-3, but Hon ended a rally on break point in the next game with an error-forcing overhead to lead 5-3.
The unseeded player served for the match for a third time, but once again, Hsieh denied her the win, coming out on top in wily all-court rallies to claw back on serve at 5-4. After a hold for 5-5, Hsieh garnered her first lead of the set when she converted a break point with a deft crosscourt dropshot winner, reaching 6-5.
Hsieh now had her first chance to serve for the match, and after falling behind 0-30, the top seed drew errors from Hon in a handful of protracted rallies, eventually maneuvering to the first match point of the clash. There, Hon fired a backhand return wide, and Hsieh escaped with a victory, to keep her title defense hopes alive by the slimmest of margins.