Hsieh's road to Australian Open starts in Ballarat 

SU-WEI Hsieh’s goals are clear: break back into the women’s singles world top-50 and secure a number one world doubles ranking.

Step one is Ballarat.

All tournaments now lead to the Australian Open and the reigning Wimbledon women’s doubles champ was happy with how her road to Melbourne Park started at Ballarat Regional Tennis Centre.

Hsieh blew out the cobwebs yesterday in her opening round clash against Australian teenager Melissa Esguerra in the Ballarat Open Gold AMT.

The clash was her first match in two months.

There were some mistakes mixed with beautiful ground strokes – as expected in a return from the off-season – but that is why Hsieh and her coach, Paul McNamee, hand-picked Ballarat as the place to re-start.

Ballarat offers the Taiwanese athlete a chance to get “feeling” back for her singles’ game.

“It’s very important to play here. Last year I played in all major tournaments and I feel the big tournaments are all the top players,” Hsieh said.

“It can be difficult to get the feeling back in the big tournaments and I’m very happy coming here.”

Ballarat will help launch Hsieh into the Brisbane International, which starts late next week, and from there she will move to the Sydney International and into the Australian Open.

Hsieh has spent the past three weeks in an intense training block with McNamee – the decorated Australian player, former Australian Open chief executive officer and her coach of two years.

McNamee knows first-hand that match play, and as much play as possible, is crucial to Hsieh’s return from an extended break.

“She’ll want to win every match she is playing,” McNamee said.

“This tournament is key to Brisbane, Sydney and the Australian Open – for us, it all starts here.”

McNamee, who has nephews in Ballarat, said he was alerted to the tournament by his charge, Mitchell Burman, also in action this weekend.

Ballarat allows Hsieh a low-key platform to focus on her singles and doubles – a tough mental and physical juggling act.

Opportunities opened  up for Hsieh and her Chinese doubles partner Peng Shuai when they won Wimbledon, defeating Australian duo Casey Dellacqua and Ashleigh Barty, but her singles ranking dropped from the high 20s to 80s.

McNamee said that while Hsieh was well-known for her doubles, most people did not often realise she had two WTA singles titles to her name.

Hsieh can change this in a big summer of tennis ahead.

melanie.whelan@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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