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By Richard Pagliaro | Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Su-Wei Hsieh

Su-Wei Hsieh upset Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza, 7-6 (1), 6-4, to surge into the Australian Open third round for the first time in 10 years.

Photo credit: @Australian Open

Pacing slowly near the baseline, Su-Wei Hsieh pressed pause on this sweaty Australian Open battle.

Bending over to rescue a bug from the scorching court, Hsieh carefully handed the insect to a ball kid for safe keeping.

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Showing delicate touch, Hsieh delivered brilliant dissection.

The slender world No. 82 befuddled Garbine Muguruza with clever care dispatching the Wimbledon champion, 7-6 (1), 6-4, to surge into the Australian Open third round for the first time in 10 years.

"She's definitely a very tricky opponent, and even more if she plays well," said Muguruza, who suffered her earliest Melbourne exit in five years. "I think today she played well. I maybe could have done things better, but at the end, she deserves to win. That's really it."

The 32-year-old Hsieh has a soft spot for all insects, but remains a major giant killer.

Last spring, Hsieh stunned seventh-seeded Johanna Konta in the opening round of Roland Garros, 1-6, 7-6 (2), 6-4.

On a blazing hot afternoon on Rod Laver Arena, Hsieh moved like a whisper and struck with subtlety denying the third-seeded Spaniard the pace she craves while coaxing Muguruza, who played with taping wrapping her right thigh, to produce her flat drives from awkward positions on court.

"It's never easy to play against top 20 girls," Hsieh said. "I think for the mental for sure they are much better than us, so when we go on the court we forget who is them, and to focus on our game.

"I do a little bit better today and try to hang in there. I know the weather is going to be a little bit tough today because I hear weather going to be over 39 degrees. I was thinking, Ah, I'm from Asia. I maybe can handle it better than other girls."

Conditions were so extreme, Hsieh said some of the bugs she picked up from the court were DOA.

"I think it was too hot today and every time the bug come into the court they're dead," Hsieh said. "Most of the time I'm picking out the dead body from the bug. It was too hot on court today."

A highly-creative player, Hsieh took the ball on the rise and redirected Muguruza's power with varied angles. Often opening the court driving returns down the line, Hsieh won 24 of 32 points played on Muguruza’s second serve.

The two-time Grand Slam champion crashed out of Melbourne a couple hours after 123rd-ranked lucky loser Bernarda Pera toppled Konta, 6-4, 7-5.

One of the most gifted athletes on the Tour, Muguruza is not always adept at making mid-match adjustments. Casting nervous glances toward coach Sam Sumyk, Muguruza could not solve the problems Hsieh posed, battled a blister on her foot, strained to decipher the direction of her opponent’s deceptive two-handed strokes and struggled to string solid service games together.

"It's blisters at the end," said Muguruza, who did not blame the blister for her demise. "I think the surface of the court, I don't know how much heat, it's terrible, very, very hot, and it's easy to get blister and red."

A moody Muguruza got so ornery at one point she nearly hit the linesperson with a ball. 

The third-ranked Muguruza fought hard, but grew frustrated trying to squeeze her flat drives down the line. Muguruza scattered 37 unforced errors.

Surging out to a 4-0 lead in the tie break, Hsieh extended to 5-1 on a Muguruza double fault. A backhand winner down the line brought her to set point and when Muguruza missed a return, Hsieh had the first set in hand.

In a tennis irony, Hsieh lacks a driver’s license but has been using her mischievious ball-control skills to drive opponents nuts for years.

"I was doing a lot of different training," Hsieh said. "I do the topspin, I mean, the flat balls and slice. I try to practice all the stuff. So against different player, I try to do a little bit different stuff. Not try to play the same game. So it helps a lot."

Soft touch and the ability to hold the ball on her strings are Hsieh assets. She served effectively down the stretch, sliding an ace to seal a love hold for a 4-2 second-set lead.

Muguruza once qualified for the WTA Finals in both singles and doubles and was productive on the attack today, but badly bungled a routine forehand volley to hand Hsieh the break and a 5-2 second-set lead.

The Wimbledon champion broke back then staved off a match point following an inside-out forehand where she zapped a forehand swing volley right into Hsieh’s body as she earned a hard-fought hold for 4-5.

Serving for the match again, Hsieh brought the magic. She opened the final game with a brilliant backhand pass down the line that splashed the center of the sideline and closed with another backhand down the line.

Hsieh, who appeared to pinch back tears of joy after the two-hour triumph, will face another touch artist, Agnieszka Radwanska, for a place in the round of 16.

The 26th-seeded Radwanska rallied past Lesia Tsurenko, 2-6, 7-5, 6-3, to reach the third round for the ninth time in the last 10 years.  


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