DUBAI, UAE -- Giant-killing Hsieh Su-wei of Chinese Taipei pulled off a stirring final-set fightback in the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships quarterfinals on Thursday, fighting back from a 1-5, double-break deficit in the decider to oust No.4 seed Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic, 6-4, 1-6, 7-5.
"[Pliskova] serves really big," Hsieh told the press, after her victory. "She makes ace almost every game. It was not easy to come back. I say [to] myself, 'Okay, if she [does] not ace me, I hit ball, hit so much harder than before, then she cannot hit a winner.'"
It was another stunning upset by World No.31 Hsieh, who picked up her third win over a Top 10 seed this week. She had ousted 10th seed Anastasija Sevastova in the opening round before her shock victory over reigning Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber on Wednesday.
Moreover, Hsieh won the final six games of the match, continuing a pattern of late-match surges this week -- she won the final four games in her win over Sevastova, and the final eight games while upsetting Kerber.
Former World No.1 Pliskova had won her only prior meeting with Hsieh, but it was a close affair in the third round of Miami last year, where the Czech won a final-set tiebreak to prevail. It was Hsieh who won a whisker-thin encounter this time, obtaining the victory in two hours. There was little separating the players statistically, but Pliskova did let nine of her 13 break points go begging in the match.
"Second set was slowing down a little bit, so it's not a good sign," said Hsieh. "I still make some mistakes, but I'm glad that I keep trying, keep trying, keep trying. Finally it works, so I survive."
Hsieh moves into her first Premier-level semifinal, where she will take on the winner of the match between No.2 seed Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic and Viktoria Kuzmova of Slovakia.
"They haven't played yet, so I will send my spy to watch [the] match," Hsieh smiled.
As expected, it was a marked contrast in styles from the outset, with the power game of Pliskova contrasting with the slice-and-dice approach of the crafty Hsieh. The disparate games led to a competitive first set through 3-3, where only one break point was held by either player.
After a hold by Pliskova for 4-3, Hsieh let a 40-0 lead slip, blasting two double faults to give Pliskova a break point. Hsieh saved that with a backhand winner, but two more break points for the Czech followed. Hsieh used incredible pinpoint depth to quash those chances as well, eventually earning a hard-fought hold for 4-4.
Pliskova faltered after losing those chances, dropping serve at love as Hsieh plopped a backhand return square on the baseline for a clean winner on break point. Hsieh fired a love service game to take the set, and the player from Chinese Taipei had 13 winners in the opening frame, four more than powerful Pliskova.
But the Czech got her game roaring in the second set. Pliskova began powering through rallies, breaking early for 3-1, then closing out a tough service game with an ace to consolidate for 4-1. The former World No.1 continued to blast groundstrokes to set up putaways at the net, and she claimed another break of serve to lead 5-1.
In the next game, an ace gave Pliskova her first set point, which she converted with a backhand winner down the line, leveling the match at one set apiece. In the second set, Pliskova crushed 14 winners to only eight unforced errors, allowing her to roll through the frame without facing a break point.
Pliskova kept all the momentum going at the start of the decider, breaking Hsieh in the first game, then claiming the double-break advantage to lead 3-0 by chasing down one of Hsieh’s signature drop shots and returning it with a drop shot winner of her own. Pliskova kept up her tremendous serving to hold through to a 5-1 lead.
But Hsieh found her superb shot selection once more as the set wore on, using a wicked forehand to force an error from Pliskova on break point at 5-2, getting one break back. Suddenly, Pliskova’s error count started to mount again, and she dropped serve at love to let Hsieh back on serve at 5-5.
Hsieh held with ease for 6-5, putting the pressure squarely on the Czech. Hsieh took advantage, garnering two match points, the second by forcing an error with a solid backhand down the line. Pliskova let a backhand sail wide there, giving Hsieh another epic upset to add to her resume.