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By Richard Pagliaro | Sunday, January 21, 2018

 
Angelique Kerber

Angelique Kerber grinded down touch artist Su-Wei Hsieh, 4-6, 7-5, 6-2, setting up a blockbuster Australian Open quarterfinal vs. Madison Keys.

Photo credit: Mark Peterson/Corleve

Embroiled in a sweaty, scrambling skirmish, Angelique Kerber dropped a set and played catch-up against clever touch artist Su-Wei Hsieh.

One last determined dash helped Kerber finally find the finish line.

Watch: Keys Crushes Kerber

Sprinting up to a drop shot, Kerber shoveled a forehand winner down the line capping a committed comeback.

The 2016 Australian Open champion relied on her churning legs, timely counter strikes and deep defiance to fend off a zoning Hsieh, 4-6, 7-5, 6-2, and advance to the Melbourne quarterfinals.

The 21st-seeded Kerber will play Madison Keys for a place in the final four.

The 17th-seeded Keys cranked nine aces dismissing eighth-seeded Caroline Garcia, 6-3, 6-2, in 68 minutes.

Kerber has won six of seven meetings with Keys, including a straight-sets triumph in their most recent encounter at the 2016 WTA Championships. Keys' lone win over the 30-year-old German came on grass in the 2014 Eastbourne final.



A decade after she fell to Justine Henin in the Australian Open fourth round as a qualifier, Hsieh produced two sets of brilliant finesse tennis befuddling the two-time Grand Slam champion with acute angles, audacious drop shots and eye-popping drives down the line.

Hsieh, who knocked off Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza and former Wimbledon finalist Agnieszka Radwanska, gave Kerber all she could handle.

The sturdy German hung tough, hustled after every ball and found a higher gear to grind down her dangerous 32-year-old opponent.

“Credit to her, she played an unbelievable match,” Kerber told Rennae Stubbs afterward. “She was playing really good. I was running everywhere and she always had the answer. Really well done how she played today and also the last week. For sure, we will see a lot in 2018 from her—that’s for sure.”

The former world No. 1 saw enough from Hsieh today to nearly drive her nuts.

Playing with two hands off both sides, Hsieh’s abbreviated backswings and uncanny ability to add or withdraw pace seemingly off the same swing confounded Kerber, who struggled to reach the Grand Slam doubles champions shots at times.

Down 1-3, Hsieh reeled off five of the next six games to take the first set.

Chasing the ball into obscure areas of the court, Kerber was often forced to counter from extreme positions.


Hsieh hit 42 winners—11 more than her opponent—converted four of five break points and generally gave Kerber the runaround as the second set escalated toward a tense climax.

Serving to stay in the tournament, Kerber held for 5-all then made her move.

Playing such a clean match to that point, Hsieh netted a shot to had Kerber break point in the 11th game.




Sprinting to her left, Kerber slid into a forehand pass down the line, skidding into a squat to break for 6-5.

The 2016 US Open champion reeled off six straight points to take the second set.

The pair traded breaks to start the decider.

A sweat-soaked Kerber showed her stamina growing stronger as the final set escalated, while Hsieh, pacing behind the baseline in short steps, showed signs of fading physically and lacked the spring on serve.

Dipping a low pass that a flagging Hsieh barely got her racquet on, Kerber clinched the double break for a 4-1 lead. Hsieh wasn’t done yet. She slid her first ace to save a second match point at the two hour, two-minute mark then hit a forehand that collided with the net and crawled over as she held for 2-5.

Kerber’s running forehand down the line ended a gritty two hour, eight-minute battle.


 

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