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Hsieh attains record WTA ranking at 25th

TAIPEI -- Taiwan's Hsieh Su-wei (謝淑薇) vaulted to 25th in the latest Women's Tennis Association (WTA) singles rankings yesterday, setting a new mark for the highest ranking ever achieved by any Taiwanese tennis player, male or female.

Hsieh's new ranking, coming after winning a lower-tier US$100,000 ITF event in Suzhou, China on Sunday, bested the previous record held by Wang Shi-ting, who rose to 26th in the world in 1993.

The highest ranking for a Taiwanese man is 33rd, set by Lu Yen-hsun in November 2010.

Wang, born in 1973, started her professional career in 1991 and retired from the tour in 2000 with six WTA single titles.

Upon learning that her record was broken by Hsieh, Wang extended her congratulations and said she hoped Hsieh and other Taiwanese players would strive for even better performances in the international tennis arena.

Hsieh's meteoric rise is as unexpected as it is remarkable. The 26-year-old veteran entered 2012 ranked 172nd in the world in singles and was seen more as a doubles specialist than a singles threat.

But after taking on retired Australian tennis player Paul McNameeas her coach, Hsieh's results took a turn for the better.

She surprised everybody by reaching the semifinals of a WTA Tour event in Pattaya in early February and then followed that three weeks later with her first WTA Tour title at the BMW Malaysian Open in Kuala Lumpur.

Those results were good enough to get Hsieh into the top 70, and they eventually earned her a slot in the women's singles draw at the Olympic Games.

Hsieh, who plays double-fisted groundstrokes from both sides of her body and stands out for her devilish changes of pace and guile in an era dominated by power, had her best-ever showing at the Wimbledon Championships this year, reaching the third round before losing to Russian Maria Sharapova.

She then disappointed at the Olympics in London on the same Wimbledon courts and the U.S. Open, getting knocked out of both events in the first round, but then set her eyes on cracking the top 50 during the fall season in Asia.

That happened fairly quickly with a win at a US$50,000 ITF event in Ningbo and then a second ATP title at the US$220,000 Guangzhou International Women's Open in mid-September, when she overcame a 3-0 deficit in the final set to edge out Britain's Laura Robson for the championship.

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Hsieh Su-Wei of Taiwan returns a shot against Petra Martic of Croatia during their final singles match at the BMW Malaysian Open women's tennis tournament in Kuala Lumpur on March 4. (AFP)

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