Hsieh Su-Wei, 38, is a dominant force in doubles

When Hsieh Su-Wei walked onto the court in March to play doubles at the Miami Open with her partner, Elise Mertensshe was not burdened by a bulky tennis bag containing half a dozen rackets, an assortment of snacks and several sets of clothes and shoes.

Despite World No. 1 doubles Hsieh, 38, wore an outfit she bought off-the-shelf that bore none of the logos associated with lucrative sponsorship deals that many of her colleagues on the WTA Tour have. Until recently, Hsieh had no manager, meaning she had to sell herself to sponsors. Her efforts so far have not been successful.

“It’s not an easy job dealing with sponsorships when people aren’t sure whether they want you or not,” said Hsieh, who normally plays with just two racquets, which she said wasn’t a problem because she’d never broken one and couldn’t remember the last time she snapped a string. “I don’t want to waste time on it. I just want to focus on my tennis.”

Hsieh has never been consumed by the trappings of her sport, preferring to forge her own circuitous path. An accomplished singles player, she was ranked No. 23 in her career in 2013 but has never advanced beyond the quarterfinals of a major. She first rose to No. 1 in doubles in 2014 and won Wimbledon in 2013 and the French Open in 2014, both with Peng Shuai. She won her second Wimbledon in 2019 with Barbara Strycova and her third with Mertens two years later.

After taking a nearly 18-month hiatus from the tour at the end of 2021 to heal a nagging muscle strain in her leg that had her considering retirement, Hsieh returned in April of last year and has now won three of the last four majors, each with a different partner. At last year’s French Open, she played with Wang Xinyuwho is almost 16 years younger than her, to win the championship. Hsieh went on to win Wimbledon with Strycova.

Last fall, after Strycova retired following the US Open, Mertens sent a message to Hsieh asking her to join forces for this season. The two promptly won the Australian Open in January (Hsieh also won the mixed doubles title with Jan Zielinski) and the doubles title at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells in March. That victory helped her regain the No. 1 ranking.

“We really feel each other on the field and we have a lot of communication,” Mertens said. “It’s rare that you meet someone where you build towards each other and also think: ‘Let’s improve together.’”

Hsieh, who retired from singles this spring, knows her time on tour is running out, but she doesn’t let that distract her. The native of Taipei, Taiwan, doesn’t care much about her playing style, which, like her personality, can sometimes be precise, explosive and cunning. Sometimes even she doesn’t know which shot she will take and when.

She hits with both hands on both sides, a style made necessary by her slight frame when she started playing with her father at age 5. She glides effortlessly to the net, constantly looking for opportunities to sneak in and knock down volley winners. Her tourmates call her Wizard for her confusing shotmaking.

Hsieh no longer has a permanent coach, although Paul McNamee guides her to the majors, including this French Open. At home in Paris, where she has lived for almost ten years, she often practices with her boyfriend Frederic Aniere, occasionally at Roland Garros. Along the way, she is sometimes accompanied by her brother, Hsieh Cheng-peng, and his tennis-playing children. She finds that having different voices in her ear helps keep the playing fresh.

Hsieh would like to represent Taiwan at the Paris Olympics in July, a goal she has not achieved since 2012, when she lost in the first round of the singles and the quarterfinals of the doubles.

“Winning the Grand Slams is the first priority for me,” she said. “But I always want to win a medal for Taiwan. For me that would be something special.”

After nearly a quarter century of traveling the world, Hsieh was asked what kept her going. She laughed.

“That’s a good question because I ask myself what I’m doing here,” she said. “I just try to enjoy it first and the answer will come out one day. I’m not in a hurry.”

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