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February 14, 2021

Paul McNamee

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Press Conference

THE MODERATOR: Take us through Hsieh Su-Wei's performance today.

PAUL MCNAMEE: It was excellent because she'd never been in the quarterfinal of a singles at a Grand Slam. She knew it was an opportunity. She missed a couple of opportunities before. You don't know how many more you're going to get when you're at her age. She knew it was an important match.

I thought she was very relaxed and very in control of the match, which is good when there was a lot on the line. She's not a player that's going to be in contention very often. I know what that is like.

I thought she handled that really well today.

Q. She was just describing her personality. I was wondering how you would describe it.

PAUL MCNAMEE: She's a free spirit. It's important that she's allowed to express herself. That's the same with her tennis. It kind of reflects the way she is off the court. She kind of acts on a whim sometimes, doesn't like to plan too far ahead.

Even finding out if I'm going to be helping her or coaching her, I normally only find out a week or two before (laughter). So she's a free spirit. You don't want to box that spirit. You got to let it rise and be free. That's the important thing.

Q. As someone who has been in the game for as long as you have, how would you characterize her personality compared to all the other players?

PAUL MCNAMEE: There's only one Su-Wei. There's times when she's kind of focused and other times when she really is not motivated at all to practice. I've experienced it where she'll just go and hit one or two balls, didn't hit them well, that's it, she won't play any more that day. Wasn't feeling it.

I've seen her play a game. She's so precise the way she plays. No one can redirect traffic as well as she can on both sides. Doesn't matter which way it's coming from, she can redirect it either way.

She was playing a match in Eastbourne one day, she was hitting -- she missed two balls in a row by three meters. Change ends, keeps going. She's missing balls by so far. That's not Su-Wei. She misses by millimeters normally.

I noticed she was playing with broken strings in her racquet, literally playing with broken strings.

I said, Su-Wei, your racquet.

Oh, yeah.

I mean, she hadn't broken a string for three years. You tell me a player that uses the same racquet for three years and doesn't change the racquet. Now, she has to buy racquets, which is very unusual. She doesn't have any contracts at all. That's why she's like Times Square on the court with the different logos from the different companies. She went three years without breaking a string.

We had a bit of trauma before this tournament because she had to get a restring before the tournament. That's once a year. Players change racquets on the change of balls, right? She'll go years with the same racquet.

It is different. You've got to accept that. She didn't know what it was like to play with a broken string, so she didn't know it was broken. One of the reason is she hits the ball so purely in the center of the racquet. Most people break strings when they hit it around the frame. She doesn't frame balls. I mean, she would rather not play if she did that. Enough...

Q. How do you then as a coach harness all that? She mentioned obviously she credits you a lot with helping her to bloom late in her career. She said the biggest thing is you didn't try to change her game. How do you manage those two things?

PAUL MCNAMEE: Well, I think it was being old enough to recognize that she was different. As I said, you can't put that talent in a box. You've got to let it run free and just wait for your moments to throw a morsel of helpful advice. You have to wait for your moment.

A lot of times she's not really interested in advice, yeah (laughter). So you got to wait for your moment. You got to make sure that it counts because you don't get many moments to give some input.

Yeah, I mean, the person who deserves the credit really is her life partner Fred. They live together in Paris. She likes Paris. Fred has been an amazing influence on Su-Wei the last few years. It's a team effort absolutely.

It's nice of her to give me some credit, but really Fred has been the one that's helped her actually be more professional, if I can say that, yeah.

Q. What is your take on the job that Craig Tiley and his team have done to pull this off in the middle of a pandemic and have sizable crowds for the first five days?

PAUL MCNAMEE: Yeah, it's been six, eight months of torture really for Craig and the organizing team. I know how hard they've been working to pull this off with the restrictions that are so tough here...

In a way, you could have imagined it would have been easier in Paris or New York. Over there it's acceptable if there's some outbreak. It's a manageable situation in terms of PR anyway, a little bit better. I think they both did a great job. So here, there's one case, it's catastrophic.

So the number of things they had to go through to actually get the players here, put them up, arrange all of these matches that are going on. I mean, it was actually hard getting a practice court the last couple of days because of the other tournaments that are starting again.

They've done an amazing job to kick-start this year. I mean, I was obviously Craig's predecessor, tournament director before Craig. I experienced a flood on center court during the tournament. That was the hardest thing I ever had to face. That was the night before the women's singles final, which was a really difficult situation to manage. But it came and went in 24 hours. This has been a long, long time.

He was doing a conference call with the players every single night of hotel quarantine, every single night, at 7:30. That was pretty good effort. I think the players raved at the fact that he fronted up every night and sometimes with some bad news. This was not a walk in the park, what he's gone through.

It's horrible bad luck that the crowds are not here for a few more days. It's horrible bad luck. I really, really hope the crowds come back for the women's semis on Thursday and the men's semis Thursday night. This tournament deserves crowds for the semis and finals. We'd love to be there on Thursday, too (smiling).

Q. Given what you said about Su-Wei, what was it like when you first started working with her, to adjust to someone that unique?

PAUL MCNAMEE: It was an adjustment. Yeah, I mean, I'd seen her talent. I mean, like most people, I enjoyed watching her play. I felt like that she had the potential to have the best finishing volleys in the world. In the end, she was able to achieve that. It's borne out by she's the current No. 1 ranked player in doubles. Her finishing volleys are incredible. So I recognized that.

I said to her, I think you got the best finishing volleys in the world. I could have had two heads. She was very humble, very far removed from that. She was ranked over 300 in singles, 40 something in doubles.

Yeah, she kind of got to work. Winning that first Wimbledon was amazing with Peng Shuai. The doubles kind of came first, then the singles came.

I remember the very next week we went to Budapest. I wanted to go for a run. She had never gone for a run before, never, never. I mean, yeah, it was amusing.

I realized it was going to be difficult, some things were going to be difficult. She stuck around. To think she's 35 years of age, in her first Grand Slam quarterfinal. She's been in the round of 16 a few times, won three WTA singles titles. I always believed she had a Grand Slam quarter at least in her, quarter or a semis. That's what I felt like. She's achieved that now. She ticked that box.

Singles-wise this is her most significant. More significant than winning the three titles. Last eight in a slam, a major, it's a big result. It was a process. The hard thing for me was I was kind of super professional, I guess, right? I worked hard. I'd warmed down with a file-mile run, 8K run, that was the warm-down. She'd never been on a run. Just getting used to someone different.

It's had its challenges along the way. Sometimes you just have to back off and say nothing, is really the best thing to do. I've learnt the joy of silence a lot working with Su-Wei (laughter).

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