Angelique Kerber’s comeback victory over Hsieh Su-Wei in the Australian Open fourth round on Monday resembled an Olympic distance running race and the German is thrilled she crossed the finish line first.
The 32-year-old Hsieh looked like she was on her way to taking down another huge scalp in Melbourne, following her defeats of Garbine Muguruza and Agnieszka Radwanska earlier this fortnight, when she led Kerber by a set and was sending her across every inch of the court in a fierce battle.
In 2017, Kerber would have perhaps folded and lost that match in two. But as the German continues to remind us, this is 2018 and she has no intention of giving up. The ex-world No. 1 dug deep to complete a 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 success over the ever-tricky Hsieh and set-up a mouthwatering quarter-final against American Madison Keys.
“I think that was the key at the end that I really could run forever, and I was feeling that I was running from the first point until the last point. A lot of metres, actually,” said Kerber, a champion in Melbourne in 2016.
“I think she played amazing match and it’s always tricky to play against her. I’m really happy about how I was able to change the match and turn around and playing, then, good tennis again in important moments, especially in the third set.”
— Wim Fissette (@wimfissette) January 22, 2018
The Taiwanese Hsieh blasted 42 winners, pulling off creative shots that would have stumped anyone on court on Monday.
She calls it Su-Wei style.
“I don’t have a plan. Actually, my boyfriend was looking her game earlier this morning. I forgot to ask him what she play, so, I actually have no plan to go on the court. So I was try to still going my Su-Wei style, you know,” said the world No. 88, who plays double-handed on both sides.
“I call like to play freestyle. Like today I go on the court. If I don’t have a plan, then I do whatever I can. When the ball come, I decide at the last moment where to hit, so sometime the girls say, oh, I don’t know where she hit. But sometimes I don’t know where I hit, too,” she added with a smile.
Kerber is currently riding a nine-match winning streak — 13 if you count her singles wins from Hopman Cup in opening week. After a sensational 2016 that saw her win two majors, the 29-year-old suffered a breakdown in form last season, slipping from No. 1 to No. 22 in the world in 2017.
But a new and improved Kerber has appeared this season and she’s happy to put 2017 behind her.
“My expectations are always now to play every single match my best. I am not looking too much ahead,” said Kerber.
“I just try to play like 2016 a little bit, like not doing too many things to complicate it. Not thinking too much about everything. Just going there, doing my job, loving what I’m doing, and that’s it. I mean, I have a great time on and off court. And I enjoy Australia. So, yeah, I’m not thinking about expectation anymore, no.”
“It was a very good match from the first point – we both played a really high quality match.”
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 22, 2018
She may not be piling the expectations on herself but she knows what to expect from her quarter-final opponent, Keys, who eased past eighth-seeded Caroline Garcia on Monday 6-3, 6-2 in 68 minutes.
Keys, a runner-up at the US Open last September, has been in brutal form this fortnight and will bring her power game to Kerber in their blockbuster showdown.
“I think she’s always tough to play. She obviously is a great tennis player. She’s been No. 1 in the world and won Slams,” Keys said of Kerber, who leads their head-to-head 6-1.
“I think she has an ability to cover the court and anticipate like really no one else does, so for me it’s having to play aggressive but also consistently aggressive, because I know she’s going to make three more balls than other girls may be able to get to.
“So it’s not feeling rushed and that I have to go for something crazy big on the first one and just really work the point.”
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