Doubles fans will be treated to an added dose of excitement in Madrid this week with a pair of familiar names back in the draw. WTA fan favorites and former World No. 1 doubles team, Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova, will make their long-awaited return to the professional doubles circuit at the 2023 Madrid Open.
Strycova announced her retirement in May 2021 soon before giving birth to her first child, Vincent. Since finishing runner-up at the 2021 WTA Finals in Guadalajara alongside Elise Mertens, Hsieh Su-wei has taken extended time off from the tour for the last 18+ months.
The pair of 37-year-olds both parted ways, from each other and professional tennis, in 2021 to prioritize their personal lives following a dominant run in 2020. Their absence hasn’t gone unnoticed in a doubles landscape that has undergone a significant amount of influx over the last few years with retirements, injuries, and partnership swaps.
What made them such a dominant and popular team?
Strycova’s firepower, high-energy style and raw emotion combined with Hsieh’s crafty shots, unorthodox playing style and quirky personality gave this duo an entertaining edge for fans wherever they played.
I miss the adrenaline you get when you step on the court. And of course, I miss the fight and the winning feeling. Mostly there is unfinished business in my head though. I want to finish on my terms. I also want Vincent to see me play at Wimbledon; that’s what is driving me. It’s about me and closing the chapter on my terms. I want to feel like ‘okay this is it… I can turn the page now.Barbora Strycova on the Fantastic Tennis Podcast
5 Doubles Notes on Hsieh & Strycova’s Partnership
Can Hsieh and Strycova rekindle their doubles magic this year in Madrid?
Before they take the court, here’s a quick primer on how an initially unexpected doubles partnership elevated them to become a dominant force in the women’s doubles game.
1. Picking Up Where They Left Off: 92% Winning Record in 2020
In the months before the pandemic, Hsieh and Strycova were virtually unbeatable. They kicked off 2020 in convincing style with a pre-pandemic 17-1 record that included three titles in Brisbane, Dubai, and Doha and a runner-up performance at the Australian Open.
When play resumed in fall of 2020, they quickly returned to their winning ways by capturing the title at the Italian Open, the first event they played in after the lockdown. By the end of 2020, they won four of six events they played and posted a 23-2 season record (92 percent win percentage).
2. Breakthrough on the Grass: 2019 Wimbledon Champions
Hsieh and Strycova’s biggest title together came on the grass at 2019 Wimbledon, where they defeated Gaby Dabrowski/Yifan Xu 6-2, 6-4 in the finals. The Wimbledon trophy marked Strycova’s first major title at age 32 and Hsieh’s third major, but her first in five years.
Perhaps even more significantly, the win catapulted Strycova to the world No. 1 doubles ranking for the first time in her career. Along the way, they never dropped a set while defeating a formidable roster of established teams that included Elise Mertens/Aryna Sabalenka in the quarterfinals and No. 1 seeds Timea Babos/Kristina Mladenovic in the semi-finals.
3. Magic in Madrid: 2019 Returning Champions
Hsieh and Strycova are no strangers to success at the Madrid Open. The last time they played this event was in 2019, where they won the title in convincing fashion over Gaby Dabrowski & Yifan Xu 6-3, 6-1.
This win in Madrid marked their 3rd title together since teaming up the previous year in 2018. It’s no wonder they chose Madrid as the debut site of their 2023 comeback, four years later.
4. Doubles Love at First Sight: 2018 Indian Wells Champions
It’s funny how doubles partnerships work out the way they do sometimes. Both scrambling for a partner at the very last minute, Hsieh and Strycova teamed up on a whim at 2018 Indian Wells and never looked back.
They won their first tournament together with a 6-0 record that included a string of upsets over Alicia Rosolska/Abigail Spears, Latisha Chan/Angel Chan, Vania King/Katarina Srebotnik, Gaby Dabrowski/Yifan Xu, and finally Ekaterina Makarova/Elena Vesnina to win the title.
Once they left the desert, Hsieh and Strycova proved this fairytale run wasn’t a fluke and went on to win nine titles together over the next three years.
5. Success Together and Apart: 30+ Career Doubles Titles
Between 2018 and 2021, Hsieh and Strycova didn’t waste any time in becoming one of the most dominant teams at the top of the doubles game. Over this three-year period, they finished with a 59-14 record together (81 percent win percentage), nine titles and two runner-up performances (9-2 finals record).
The nine titles they won together included one major, five WTA 1000s, two WTA 500s, and one WTA 250. While Hsieh is regarded as the more accomplished doubles player with four majors to her resume, Strycova holds a narrow edge in career doubles titles with 31 titles over Hsieh’s 30 titles.
What’s Next After Madrid?
Although we haven’t heard details of Hsieh’s doubles comeback plans yet, it is likely we should expect to see the popular doubles duo share the court together at several more events throughout the year after Madrid, according to Strycova.
“I initially only wanted to play the grass season. And then, maybe some hardcourt tournaments in the U.S. But I started practicing in January and realized I didn’t want to wait that long. So I was like…why not start sooner? I love Madrid and Rome, then hope to maybe try Birmingham, Eastbourne, Wimbledon, U.S. Open, and Prague. But no more Strycova after that, okay?!”Barbora Strycova in an interview with Jon Guerrica on the Fantastic Tennis Podcast