Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei on Thursday pulled off a shock in her first match of the season at the Abu Dhabi WTA Women’s Tennis Open, rallying from a set down to defeat eighth-seeded Czech Marketa Vondrousova 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7/3) and then crediting green sea turtles for her success.
The Taiwanese world No. 67 said that a refreshed body and mind had helped her to maintain her focus to the end of the match, excitedly discussing her visits to Taiwan’s outlying islands and swimming with the turtles.
“They are super friendly,” Hsieh told the WTA Web site. “You can swim with them, but you are not allowed to touch. If you touch, US$10,000 for fine. So I went there and almost every beach we went we could see the green turtles. It was amazing.”
After trading the opening two sets, world No. 21 Vonrousova, losing finalist at the French Open in 2019, broke first in the third and served for the match at 5-4, but Hsieh broke back and forced the deciding tiebreak, which she controlled to claim the victory in 2 hours, 23 minutes.
“I was thinking it was a little bit a similar match as Roland Garros [last year], when in the second match I played against Iga [Swiatek],” Hsieh said. “I was leading the second set 4-1 up, and I was leading here 4-3 up. I was thinking this is a very similar situation and I thought: ‘OK, this time I’m not letting you go.’”
Hsieh saved eight of 15 break points and converted seven of nine, winning 71 percent of points on her first serve as her Czech opponent notched 11 double faults. She next faces Ukrainian world No. 99 Marta Kostyuk, who defeated Czech Lucie Hradecka 6-2, 6-4.
It was the Taiwanese No. 1’s best win since she beat then-world No. 18 Caroline Wozniacki at the Wuhan Open in September 2019.
Sofia Kenin also opened her season with a win, beating Yang Zhaoxuan 7-6 (7/4), 6-2.
The American hit 11 aces to set up a second-round match against Kirsten Flipkens.
“Obviously, a little bit of nerves. I had to try and find my groove,” said Kenin, the Australian Open champion who plans to defend her title next month. “First set was quite tough for me. I couldn’t find the ball, I guess, but second set I showed up strong and of course I feel like it’s because of the lack of matches for me.”
After a long pre-season, Kenin said that she was happy to beat a player who had already had match practice in qualifying, but she had concerns about her own fatigue toward the end.
“I was like: ‘I just want to finish already. I’m too tired,’” Kenin said.
Second seed Elina Svitolina had to contend with the wind changing direction as she won 6-4, 6-3 against Jessica Pegula of the US.
“The conditions were not easy today, with the wind going around the court and changing all the time, so I tried to really stay focused on what I had to do on the court,” Svitolina said.
Third seed Karolina Pliskova hit seven double faults in a tough match against 278th-ranked lucky loser Despina Papamichail before winning 6-2, 7-6 (7/4).
Fourth seed Aryna Sabalenka came back after trailing 5-3 in the opening set to beat Polona Hercog 7-6 (7/5), 6-2, while sixth seed Elena Rybakina defeated Lucrezia Stefanini 6-1, 6-3.
Sara Sorribes Tormo beat French Open semi-finalist Nadia Podoroska 6-3, 6-3, while American teenager Coco Gauff won the first 11 games in her 6-0, 6-1 demolition of Ulrikke Eikeri.
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