Ahead of their clash on No 1 Court on Friday, Karolina Pliskova said: ‘I don’t feel like practicing with Hsieh’, and the trouble she had with the 33-year old from Taiwan was testimony as to why.
There’s no-body in the draw playing like this, so I’m just pleased I made it. Karolina Pliskova
The Eastbourne champion is second-best seed remaining in the draw following the departure of World No 2 Naomi Osaka at the dawn of the Wimbledon Championships, and she came through a tough three-setter to stay on course.
Su-Wei Hsieh is a tricky opponent, who weaves webs around those she plays, using a lethal combination of slice and guile.
The Taiwanese is light on her feet and deceptively speedy around the court, using her remarkable anticipation to frustrate the opposition, who frequently implode under the onslaught.
“We had so many good matches in the past, she’s so tough for everybody!” Pliskova told the BBC after her 6-3 2-6 6-4 win . “There’s no-body in the draw playing like this, so I’m just pleased I made it.”
The quixotic game of Hsieh can fox many a player, and for a while it seemed Pliskova would fall under her spell, but the No 3 seed finally overcame the wily shotmaker to record her 38th victory of the year.
This draws her level with Ashleigh Barty, the other in-form grass court player – the pair between them won Nottingham, Eastbourne and Birmingham in the lead up to Wimbledon.
Being in separate halves of the draw they could yet meet in the final.
There is a long way to go before that, especially for Pliskova who moves into the 4th round for only the second time in 9 Championships, and is yet to get past that stage.
Having won the first set 6-3, Pliskova was broken early in the second then squandered 4 break points at 2-4 and Hsieh went on to take the set 6-2.
After a bathroom break the Czech returned and broke early to establish a 5-3 lead.
Pliskova lost from 5-1 up in the final set to Hsieh earlier this year and is one of many players on tour to find her opponent’s unique style of play difficult, but on this occasion, she closed out the tie.
The Czech’s coach, former Wimbledon champion Conchita Martinez, was captured by cameras while observing Hsieh defeating Kirsten Flipkens, her face scrunched up in concentration and her research paid off.
“I felt the best here in Wimbledon today,” she said after beating Monica Puig, and is now probably feeling even better having dispatches a very tricky opponent indeed.
“I’m feeling more confident and getting used to the surface,” she told BBC.
“I feel like I improve also from the first round [when] I was a little bit nervous. I was feeling good today. Hopefully, it can be better again in the third round.”
Pliskova, who won her 3rd title of the year at Eastbourne last week, increased her winning streak to 8 straight matches with a gritty victory over dangerous Hsieh, who beat Pliskova in their most recent meeting in Dubai in February.
Hsieh also has 3 Top 10 wins at majors in the last 2 seasons, including a win over then-World No 1 Simona Halep at Wimbledon last year.
The Czech, though, earned her second win in her three meetings with Hsieh after an hour and 45 minutes of play, behind 42 winners, including 14 thunderous aces.
“I think I did quite good,” the Czech said in her post-match press conference. “Of course, the second set was not the best, not as I wanted to have it.
“I think I was just too good on the serve. I had a lot of aces.
“Pretty much all of the service games also in the third set were quite easy. There was not that much trouble. I think that’s what I did better, of course, compared to last matches what I played her.
“But of course, tricky, especially on grass. She can make you feel ugly, which I felt at some points. Of course, happy that I’m through.”
Pliskova, who is yet to make a Wimbledon quarter-final in her career, will try to reach that round on Monday when she faces either No 20 seed Anett Kontaveit of Estonia or her fellow Czech Karolina Muchova in the round of 16.
Neither player faced a break point in the first 7 games, as the power of Pliskova and the guile of Hsieh kept them closely matched up to that juncture.
It was Hsieh, though, who faltered at 4-3, as she started that game with a double fault and continued with errors to give Pliskova triple break point, a nifty short return by the tall Czech on the second chance led to the break.
Pliskova fell behind 15-30 while serving for the set at 5-3, but a variety of forehands pulled her from there to her first set point.
The Czech, who is this year’s ace leader to date, fired another one of those booming untouchable service winners to wrap up the first set.
Hsieh, however, had plenty of tricks up her sleeve for the second.
The Tawainese began to deploy her devilish drop-shots with aplomb, and moved Pliskova around the court with gusto as she converted her first break point of the match to lead 3-1.
Hsieh nearly lost her advantage late in the set, but gritted her way past 4 break points to attain a key hold for 5-2.
After failing to take advantage of that opportunity, Pliskova had to regroup while serving to stay in the set, but Hsieh would not let the Czech do so.
The No 28 seed fired a crosscourt winner to pull to triple break point, which doubled as 3 set points and, on her second chance, she blasted another crosscourt winner, levelling the match at one set all.
Pliskova regrouped and forced Hsieh onto the back foot with searing groundstrokes early in the decider to break for a 3-1 lead.
Appearing less rattled by Hsieh’s variations as the match wore on, she staved off a late comeback attempt by the Taiwanese to close out victory.
Pliskova will next face fellow Czech Karolina Muchova, who upset Anett Kontaveit, the 20th seed from Estonia, 7-6(7) 6-3, for a place in the quarter-finals.
“I don’t think is going to be that similar to today,” observed Pliskova. “I think there is nothing worse than today [smiling]. Doesn’t matter what’s going to happen. For sure I will feel better.
“Yeah, we played in Australia in the first round. Of course she’s improving with every month or with every tournament. But I have my serve, I have my game. It’s quite far away now. I’m not really thinking about it. It’s on Monday, so…”
Karolina Muchova set up her fourth-round Wimbledon clash with compatriot Karolina Pliskova thanks to a 7-6(7) 6-3 win over No 20 seed Anett Kontaveit.
The 22-year-old World No 68 is competing at Wimbledon for the first time and has successfully progressed to the last-16 of a major tournament for the first time, having reached the third round of her debut Grand Slam, the 2018 US Open.
Muchova has yet to drop at set at these Championships, having overcome Aleksandra Krunic and Madison Brengle in straight sets in the opening two rounds, but she required exactly an hour to grind out the opener against the Estonian.
The players exchanged breaks early in the match but it was deadlock thereafter, setting up a thrilling tiebreak in which Muchova twice manufactured set-point opportunities only to be shutdown on each occasion by her opponent.
At the third time of asking, though, she completed the job.
The second set was similarly tight, with just a single break point in the opening seven games.
Muchova was clinical when given another chance but wobbled when asked to serve out the match.
Kontaveit made her first serious inroads on her opponent’s serve since the fourth game of the match but could not close out either of her break chances and saw the Czech string together 4 points in succession to seal a place in the 4th round.
She will be joined in the second week of the tournament by Dayana Yastremska, the WTA World No 35, who booked a match against Zhang Shuai thanks to a 7-5 6-3 victory over Viktorija Golubic.
The 19-year-old had never been in the Wimbledon main draw prior to 2019 and only the World No 50, a player she beat in Hong Kong last year, stands between her and a spot in the quarter-finals.