Taiwan's Hsieh makes history in Melbourne | sports | Hindustan Times
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Taiwan's Hsieh makes history in Melbourne

sports Updated: Jan 18, 2008 18:36 IST
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The dream run of qualifier Hsieh Su-Wei continued at the Australian Open on Friday when she became Taiwan's first-ever player to reach a Grand Slam fourth round.

She is the only Asian safely through but could be joined by India's Sania Mirza and China's Li Na when they play third round matches on Saturday.

It is an extraordinary achievement for a 22-year-old ranked just 158 in the world. She had never been beyond the first round in five previous Grand Slams.

Hsieh came through qualifying, winning three matches to reach the main draw, meaning she is now unbeaten in six matches after a gritty 6-2, 6-7 (3/7), 6-4 win over Aravane Rezai of France, ranked 89 places above her.

"We are thrilled that Hsieh becomes the first Taiwanese female tennis player to make the fourth round of Australian Open," said Jimmy Wang, deputy secretary-general of Chinese Taipei Tennis Association.

"She has been working very hard to prepare for the matches and we have faith that she can do better as she is at the peak of her career."

Her reward is a showdown with world number one and seven-time Grand Slam winner Justine Henin on Sunday.

Hitting double-handed on both sides of her body, a style made famous by three-time Open champion Monica Seles, Hsieh used a succession of moon balls, or lofted shots, to work her way past Rezai.

"She made me run very much and I was tired, so I have to go moon-ball to get more seconds to rest," was Hsieh's explanation.

Hsieh has had a cracking start to the season, playing Hopman Cup in Perth where she beat Argentina's Gisela Dulko, ranked 37 in the world, to clock her first-ever win over a top-50 opponent.

But she has gone better in Melbourne, with an impressive win over 19th seed Sybille Bammer of Austria in the second round after ending the tournament for Klara Zakopalova in round one.

But there was no such joy for Japanese veteran Ai Sugiyama, who was beaten by Nicole Vaidisova, the 12th seed from the Czech Republic. Vaidisova won 6-3, 6-4, depriving Sugiyama of a crack at defending champion Serena Williams.

"I had nothing to lose. From the start, I wanted to go aggressively," said Sugiyama.

"I think I was able to play aggressive tennis. What hurt me was that I gave her opportunities because I failed services at big moments."

Of 13 Asian players in the draw at Melbourne just three now remain with Mirza playing six-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams in the showcase women's match on Saturday.

India's top player has been pleased with her mental strength in getting so far after being embroiled in controversy during the leadup to the tournament, and is looking forward to challenging Williams.

"I'm just going to go for it. I have nothing to lose. I'm very excited to play Venus," said Mirza, seeded 31.

Chinese number one Li, seeded 24, has been in red hot form this year, winning the Australian Women's Hardcourt tournament and remining unbeaten at Melbourne Park.

She has an easier task than Mirza, playing Polish qualifier Marta Domachowska.

A victory would line up a match against the winner of the Mirza-Williams showdown.