Hsieh Su-wei put her injury issues to rest to close the year on a high as she ended Natalia Vikhlyantseva’s run to win the Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge.
The former world top-25 ranked Hsieh needed all of 59 minutes to dispatch her 19-year-old opponent 6-2, 6-2 to claim the ITF $100,000 (Dh367,000) title at Habtoor Grand Resort on Saturday.
It was a night-and-day difference for the Chinese Taipei player from her semi-final clash, in which she was pushed to the brink by Germany’s Mona Barthel before rallying back from a 5-2 second-set hole to advance.
That served as a turning point, with Hsieh dropping just five games in total over her final three sets of the tournament as she came out of the gates in the final on top of her game.
“First few games I was trying to focus on the court and get into the match quick, because I know if I don’t get in quick, she’s (Vikhlyantseva) going to hit all her shots and then it’s going to be really difficult to get into the match,” Hsieh told Sport360.
“So it was a very good start for me.”
Injuries cost Hsieh most of her 2016 season and while ankle woes pegged her at less than her best coming into Dubai, she felt both her confidence and movement return after the first two matches.
“I didn’t play a match for six months,” Hsieh said. “Before I came here, my ankle was still a problem and I couldn’t practice properly. I can only stand on the court to practice, not moving at all. I knew it was going to be a difficult situation, so I knew I need to play some matches to get into the Australian Open.
“I just wanted to come and play as many matches as I can and I won the tournament. You never know what’s going to happen.”
For Vikhlyantseva, the lopsided loss didn’t do justice to how strongly the Russian teen ended the year. She has climbed the rankings from No280 in mid-April to No148 currently, boosted by her defeat of Donna Vekic to win the ITF $100,000 tournament in Saint Petersburg in September.
“I tried to show my best and I think at the end of this year I found my best game,” Vikhlyantseva said.
“I’m trying to improve and it’s much better and it’s getting better for Australia next year. I hope to be in the top 100 next year. Maybe this week was the best week of 2016.”
Later in the day, Hsieh’s dreams of a coveted double were thwarted by Russian duo Natela Dzalamidze and Veronika Kudermetova.
The pair toppled the 2013 Wimbledon and 2014 French Open doubles champion Hsieh and partner Valeria Savinykh 6-3, 3-6, 10-4 to take the crown. Dzalamidze and Kudermetova were propelled by their service game, which accounted for six aces and 72.5 per cent first serve points won.
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