The playing style of Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei may be unorthodox but it’s highly successful on the doubles court.
In Melbourne, Hsieh added two more Grand Slam trophies to her considerable collection.
This was her first Grand Slam mixed doubles title and her first time as an Australian Open women’s doubles champion.
From 2013 to 2023, she won the women’s doubles at Grand Slams on six occasions – Wimbledon x 4 (with Peng Shuai, Barbora Strýcová twice and Elise Mertens) and Roland Garros x 2 (with Peng Shuai and Wang Xinyu).
In the 2024 Australian Open mixed doubles final, Heish and her Polish partner Jan Zieliński faced American Desirae Krawczyk and Brit Neal Skupski.
The first set progressed on serve to 3-3 until Hsieh was broken as Krawczyk went down the middle with a ripping return. She then held her own serve to love.
Hiesh was the main contributor in getting the break back against Skupski’s serve. He had started with an ace but Hsieh won the second point by volleying at the feet of Krawczyk. Next, she thumped a powerful cross court return to the furthest line, beyond Skupski’s reach. That inspired her partner to hit his own winning return, and Skupski donated a double fault to draw the score back to 5-5.
Soon enough a tiebreak was necessary and Krawczyk’s great shot-making ensured she and Skupski won it.
In the second set, Zieliński lost serve through a double fault for his team to go down 2-4. But his good play against Krawczyk’s serve got the break back for 3-4.
At 5-4, Hsieh and Zieliński sat down and nodded affirmatively at each other. They were determined to win the next game to level the match. A sharp intercept volley by Hsieh made it happen. So, a match tiebreak would be required to separate the teams.
Hsieh and Zieliński raced out to 4-0 but were pulled back to 8-8. At 8-9, Hsieh saved the championship point against them with a smash that bounced so high it flew well away from Skupski’s racquet.
Having soon taken over the lead for 10-9, they earned their own championship point. Skupski netted a shot and it was all over.
As it was the first ever Grand Slam win for Zieliński, he asked his multi-Slam winning partner for guidance on the order of formalities after they received the trophy from Australian doubles legend Judy Dalton.
The next day, Hsieh returned to Rod Laver Arena to play the women’s doubles final with Elise Mertens. They had partnered many times over the years and were the 2nd seeds for the event.
Their semi against Kateřina Siniaková and Storm Hunter, the No. 3 seeds, was as brilliant as it should have been, with the added intrigue of Hunter and Mertens only recently splitting as partners.
Mertens and Hsieh threw all their heart and skills at the match to ensure they made the final, winning 7-5 1-6 6-3.
As often happens in tennis, the semi was better than the final.
The other finalists were the 11th seeded couple Jeļena Ostapenko and Lyudmyla Kichenok, who won this year’s Brisbane International together, just prior to the Australian Open.
It was the first meeting of the teams.
The first set whizzed past in 25 minutes. The serving and returning of Mertens and Hsieh and their covering for each other was outstanding, while the problems for the other pair often stemmed from a lack of communication.
Ostapenko and Kichenok teamed much more effectively in the second set. Kichenok lifted at the net and Ostapenko used her power productively, and jointly they reduced errors.
The set began with a twelve minute game, where the teams traded winners through six deuces until Mertens swiped a forehand long to give the other team a break point. Ostapenko split the middle to break for the first time.
It looked like she was handing the break straight back with two errors into the net and a double fault but she and Kichenok fought to hold for 2-0.
One of the highlights of the final was Kichenok’s daring drop shot return off a Hsieh second serve. The surprise move seemed to unnerve Hsieh who promptly served a double fault for 0-30. But four consecutive errors by the receivers granted her a hold of serve. She and Mertens then broke Kichenok to love to bring the games tally to 2-2.
From 4-3 to Mertens and Hsieh, there were further exchanges of breaks until 5-4. A wonderful ace out wide from Ostapenko saw her hold for 5-5, before her team’s errors again allowed Hsieh to hold serve.
In the final game, Mertens moved around in the service box and Kichenok lost focus to double fault and create a championship point against her serve. When Ostapenko found the net in that point, the title went to Mertens and Hsieh.
Since Hsieh announced her retirement from singles after losing in the first round of the Australian Open qualifying, it must have been especially gratifying for her to take out both doubles titles at the tournament.
That feat showed how her tactical nous and double-handed skills off both sides still have an important place on the tennis tour.
Title photos by Tennis Australia/ Hamish Blair and WTA