Hsieh, Wang capture first Slam together

Townsend and Fernandez beaten in three sets in high-quality doubles final

Xinyu Wang, Su-Wei Hsieh, finale double dames, Roland-Gaarros 2023©Loïc Wacziak / FFT
 - Courtney Walsh

Once the world’s top-ranked doubles player, Hsieh Su-Wei crowned a fabulous return to the court, partnering Wang Xinyu to the Roland-Garros doubles title on Sunday.

In just their second tournament together as a team, the pair defeated No.10 seeds Taylor Townsend and Leylah Fernandez 1-6, 7-6(5), 6-1 in an exciting final on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

Making her 60th Grand Slam doubles main draw appearance, the 37-year-old Hsieh picked up a fifth Grand Slam trophy in women's doubles and a second at Roland-Garros (she won three Wimbledon doubles titles in 2013, 2019 and 2021).

Hsieh only recently returned to tennis after a well-earned 18-month break. She spent time tending her plants while giving her body a rest before partnering another player on the comeback trail, Barbora Strycova, in Madrid last month.

A “magical decision” then saw her team up with Wang, who played superbly in the final. It was Wang's maiden triumph in just her third Grand Slam doubles tournament.

Quick thinking proves a career-changing moment

Wang said the pair discussed the prospective partnership for two minutes before making the “snap decision” to combine.

Now she is a Roland-Garros champion and Hsieh added another crown in Paris to her success with Shuai Peng in 2014.

Hsieh said the secret to succeeding so soon on the comeback trail was to find an energetic young partner that helped her “feel fresh” and “very young” again.

“It is very special, because I was not expecting to play,” she said. “I was just trying to enjoy it and I am so happy that she also enjoyed it … and we played some good tennis, we helped each other and [we were] smiling on the court.

“After my injuries, it is very special because I was not sure if I could play [at] Roland-Garros. Thank you [to Xinyu] for running every point … and having my back. It was wonderful to have that support.”

Xinyu Wang, Su-Wei Hsieh, finale, doubles dames, Roland-Garros 2023©Loïc Wacziak / FFT

Doubles dynamite

The contrast in styles between the experienced Hsieh and 21-year-old Wang was stark but those differences proved complementary and helped make them a dynamic combination.

As Wang said after the biggest success of her fledgling career, Hsieh advised her to “be aggressive and just to, like, slap them”. This advice proved critical in the second set.

Townsend and Fernandez played brilliantly in the first but the eventual champions were able to adjust to their power and pace and worked into the match in the second.

In the tiebreak, Wang was impressive, slapping return winners and clubbing groundstrokes.

“It is really great for [my] confidence,” Wang said.

A show of support

In an inspiring display of empathy after the match, Townsend consoled an emotional Fernandez beside the court, stressing that she had played superbly.

As the American told the 2021 US Open singles finalist, the 10th seeds performed well to reach the final in their first Grand Slam together and that they would be stronger in the future.

“I mean, I keep it real. So I didn't do that for the cameras or for the looks, or anything like that,” Townsend said.

“I was looking Leylah in her eyes and saying, ‘So … what that we lost? So what?’ It is our first Slam. We’ll have another chance. I believe that 100 per cent.

“It is just an experience. We chalk it up and we move forward. This isn’t the end.”

Taylor Townsend, Leylah Fernandez, final, women's doubles, Roland-Garros 2023© Loïc Wacziak/FFT

Townsend thanked her team for believing in her as she continues her comeback in both singles and doubles after becoming a mother to her son Adyn Aubrey in 2021.

Also a finalist in the US Open doubles last September with Caty McNally, the 27-year-old is flourishing on court and looking forward to writing the next chapter in her career.

The honour roll of Roland-Garros champions and finalists is filled with talented players who have used the confidence gleaned at the tournament to perform well in singles.

Last year Caroline Garcia, who partnered Kristina Mladenovic to their second title, enjoyed a superb second half of the season, rising to a ranking of No.4 in singles.

Townsend and Fernandez are hopeful this experience will stand them in good stead for the future.

“This is just the beginning. Here we go,” Townsend said.