Hsieh marks return to court with back-draw victories


Jacob Rice

Thasaporn Naklo talks with her doubles partner Christin Hsieh in the Cyclones’ match against the Oklahoma Sooners April 8, 2022.

Adarsh Tamma, Sports Reporter

As the Iowa State tennis team rounds the final corner of the 2022 fall season, the theme of reflection is in the air.

Tennis, at nearly all levels, is virtually a year-round cycle, with little time to ponder on one’s experiences from one portion of the season to the next. With two tournaments left on the calendar before the winter break, the Cyclone coaching staff is looking back on the high points of the fall season.

“I think we’ve had a really good fall,” head coach Boomer Saia said of the team’s season so far, “We’ve put ourselves in a lot of good, competitive situations. We’ve had some good [and] some things we need to work on, but I do think that they’re competing really hard and putting themselves in good positions. I think it’s just finding ways to come out on top in those positions consistently as a group. But overall, [I’m] really impressed with the body of work so far.”

None was perhaps more impressive than last week at the ITA Regional tournament, where the Cyclones won their second consecutive doubles championship in the pairing of Chie Kezuka and Ange Oby Kajuru.

The pair, who won a Big 12 Championship last season, went 6-0 in Stillwater, Oklahoma, and beat their teammates Miska Kadleckova and Anna Supapitch Kuearum along the way to the title. All three of Iowa State’s pairs reached at least the round of 16 in the main draw as well.

But while the doubles play may have stolen the spotlight, senior Christin Hsieh carved out her own place in the singles competition by winning the main draw’s consolation bracket.

It had been a long-awaited return to court for Hsieh, as she was making her season debut after having missed the start of the fall schedule due to injury. Her last collegiate match was last season in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, where she and partner Thasaporn Naklo fell to South Carolina’s Ayana Akli and Ana Cruz 6-3. The Cyclones lost the tie 4-0 to the Gamecocks in their second straight appearance in the tournament.

At ITA Regionals, Hsieh again lost, falling to Wichita State’s Lingwei Kong in straight sets, 6-1, 7-5. Speaking on her loss, teammate Thasaporn Naklo pointed to perhaps the long sabbatical from court being the main cause.

“I watched her play a lot [this weekend],” Naklo said, “I think maybe in the first match she wasn’t able to get used to the rhythm of the tournament because she didn’t play for a long time. But after her first match, she got used to the match play.”

From her loss in the opening round of the main draw, Hsieh rattled off five straight wins, including two in straight sets, as she marched her way through the consolation bracket. In the final, she faced off against Kansas State’s Rozalia Gruszczynksa in a match that was highlighted by dramatics.

In a back-and-forth affair, both players took the first two sets by a scoreline of 6-4. In the deciding, 10-point tiebreak, Hsieh took the win after coming out on top in another nailbiter, 10-7.

“It was very cool watching her [play], and I feel like it was a great experience for her being back in the team,” Kadleckova said on Hsieh’s performance, “The whole team traveled [to the tournament], so we all had a chance to watch her. I feel match after match, she played better and better.”

Now in her final year as a Cyclone player, Hsieh will look to add more victories to her resume when Iowa State travels back to Stillwater, Oklahoma to take part in the season-ending Fall Series Championships.

In her three full seasons, Hsieh has posted a double-digit win total in doubles play every single year. Last year with Naklo, the pair, along with Kadleckova and Sofia Cabezas, became the first two pairs in program history to qualify for the Fall National Championships. 

Along with Naklo, Hsieh earned a pair of victories against ranked opponents whilst playing in the No. 1 doubles spot. The pair defeated Kansas’ Maria Titova and Malkia Ngounoue of Kansas (No. 54) and Ting-Pei Chang Camilla Bossi of West Virginia (No. 73). Their play helped the Cyclones get off to the best start in program history, as they went 11-0 in dual-match play in the spring.

Saia knows that Hsieh can step in big moments to help the Cyclones get big wins, and spoke of that ability again after ITA Regionals.

“The way she responded her last four or five matches to win the back draw was inspiring,” Saia said, “I told her that her consistency, the way she was competing and conducting herself and sticking to her game style was great to see because she hadn’t really played a whole lot [of singles]. Even last spring, she was really on in that doubles lineup, so for her to have that as her first tournament and rack up a lot of wins, that was great to see.”

Hsieh, along with four of her other teammates will travel back to Stillwater, Oklahoma next weekend to compete at season-ending Fall Series Championships