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Family Matters: Taiwanese sisters set sights on a ‘Chan Slam’

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Latisha (left) appeared in two Grand Slam doubles finals as a teenager in 2007, but ‘little’ sister Angel has caught up and the sisters are now a formidable doubles team. Portraits: SportAsia.

CHAN YUNG-JAN and younger sister HAO-CHING – or Latisha and Angel – have become the WTA’s second-ranked all-Asian doubles duo after a breakthrough season together. Now, the talkative Taiwanese siblings are targeting a Grand Slam title and Olympic gold, having already won 10 Asian Games medals between them.

 

October 15, 2014: From Serena and Venus Williams to the Bryan brothers, Taiwanese sisters Chan Yung-jan and Hao-ching have some hard acts to follow as a sibling doubles team.

 

Born four years apart, Latisha and Angel – their chosen English names – reached their first WTA final together at the 2012 Pattaya Open in Thailand before winning their first title as a team at the Shenzhen Open in China in January last year.

 

Coached in Taipei by their father Chan Yuan-Liang, who also travels with them, the sisters’ game has soared to another level this year as they reached the final of April’s Family Circle Cup in Charleston (USA) and won June’s Aegon International in Eastbourne (England) – both WTA Premier events. In the latter, they lifted the trophy after beating Martina Hingis and Flavia Pennetta, both former doubles No. 1s (See: sport-asia.com/tennis-taiwans-chan-sisters-secure-sensational-eastbourne-win/).

 

Angel and Latisha – then 20 and 24 – won their biggest title together in Eastbourne. Photo: Getty Images.

Angel and Latisha – then 20 and 24 – won their biggest title together in Eastbourne. Photo: Getty Images.

Angel, then 20, went on to reach the Wimbledon mixed doubles final in July with Max Mirnyi, knocking out holders Daniel Nestor and Kristina Mladenovic in the semis before losing to Sam Stosur – another former doubles No. 1 – and Nenad Zimonjic.

 

In August, the sisters soared into the semis of the US$2.4 million Rogers Cup in Montreal (Canada), a WTA Premier 5 event, before losing to current World No. 1s Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci, the eventual champions.

 

At the Asian Games in September, Latisha won all her singles and doubles matches in the women’s team event as Taiwan – also featuring Taiwan No. 1 Hsieh Su-wei, Chan Chin-wei and Angel – regained the title by beating 2010 champions China in the final.

 

As top seeds in the women’s doubles in Incheon, the sisters claimed bronze medals after losing in the semis to eventual champions Luksika Kumkhum and Tamarine Tanasugarn of Thailand, before Angel added a silver medal to the Chan collection after reaching the mixed doubles final with Peng Hsien-yin.

 

Sisters Angel Chan Hao-ching (far left) and Latisha Chan Yung-jan (second left), Hsieh Su-wei (second right) and Chan Chin-wei won the women’s team gold for Taiwan at the Asian Games in Incheon. Photo: AFP.

Sisters Angel Chan Hao-ching (far left) and Latisha Chan Yung-jan (second left), Chan Chin-wei (second right) and Hsieh Su-wei won the women’s team gold for Taiwan at the Asian Games in Incheon. Photo: AFP.

Latisha had started the family’s Asiad medal collection at Doha 2006 when she was only 17, winning a team gold and doubles silver, while in Guangzhou four years later she added golds in both women’s and mixed doubles and a team silver.

 

The experienced Latisha has won 11 WTA titles in 26 finals and was only 15 when she won the first of her seven trophies with compatriot Chuang Chia-jung at the 2005 Korea Open. She was 17 when the duo reached the Australian Open final in 2007 and just 18 when they reached their second Slam final of the year at the US Open.

 

Latisha has played with several partners after Chuang, but with Angel now coming into her own as a doubles player, the sisters are playing the majority of tournaments together and have rapidly risen up the rankings. Among regular pairings, the sisters have now become the second-ranked all-Asian team, behind only two-time Grand Slam winners Peng Shuai and Hsieh, Taiwan’s top singles and doubles player.

 

Latisha remains her country’s second-ranked singles player, but is currently third in doubles after Angel rose above her following an impressive season in which she also won April’s Malaysian Open with Timea Babos – beating big sister and Zheng Saisai in the final.

 

Interview SportAsia

 

We’ll start with the important question. Latisha, when did Angel become taller than you?

Latisha: I can’t remember (laughs) … since she was born, maybe!

Angel: Maybe 13, 14?

Latisha: No.

Angel: I think 12.

Latisha: Like 10!

Angel: No, no, no, no.

Latisha: Yeah, 12.

 

Having won your biggest WTA title as a team at Eastbourne and performed consistently well this year, what are your next ambitions as a doubles team?

Latisha: For sure, to win a Grand Slam is our goal, definitely, and the Olympics. That was the goal we set when I was 10 years old – basically since she (Angel) decided to play tennis – and that’s why our family has fought so hard for us in the last years and will in the future years as well. We’re aiming at a Grand Slam and the gold medal and I think we can definitely do it.

 

What do you think has been your best result together?

Latisha: Eastbourne (Aegon International).

Angel: Eastbourne. And the Montreal semi-finals.

Latisha: And also the Charleston final (Family Circle Cup).

 

Latisha and Angel celebrate after beating Martina Hingis and Flavia Pennetta to win June’s Aegon International, their first WTA Premier title as a team. Photo: Getty Images.

Latisha and Angel celebrate after beating Martina Hingis and Flavia Pennetta to win June’s Aegon International, their first WTA Premier title as a team. Photo: Getty Images.

Did these results surprise you?

Angel: Not really.

Latisha: No, because that’s what we’ve been working on. I had some virus issues last year, so since I came back we’ve played most of our doubles together. We play about 80 or 90 per cent of our doubles tournaments together. Sometimes you don’t get to the final or the last day, but you know that’s your goal. Even if you lose a match, you understand and learn something from the match.

 

Angel, what was it like to reach the Wimbledon mixed doubles final with Max Mirnyi, 16 years your senior?

It was because I had a good partner. Mirnyi’s very … he’s a little bit older than me (laughs). He has faced a lot more opponents than me, so whoever we were playing, he always taught me the tactics, how to play them. In the first or second match, I only listened to him, but after we got to know each other more, we start to talk more in the match and we were happy to reach the final.

 

Latisha (left) appeared in two Grand Slam doubles finals as a teenager in 2007, but ‘little’ sister Angel has caught up and the pair are now making waves in doubles. Portraits: SportAsia.

The sisters reached the semi-finals at the Prudential Hong Kong Open. Portraits: SportAsia.

How much are you focusing on doubles compared to singles?

Angel: I think for now I will only play doubles and just focus on one thing. It has been like that since one or two years ago. My doubles ranking three years ago was about 500 and then I focused more on doubles, and now my best ranking is 18.

Latisha: She improved a lot in doubles, faster than we thought, and that’s why she decided to focus on doubles, to realise her potential.

 

When did you start playing together?

Latisha: We’ve played together since juniors.

Angel: We played some junior tournaments in Taiwan. We also played some ITF events together. When I was 13, we won an ITF World Junior event in Hong Kong (2006 Hong Kong Open Junior Championships; Angel also won the singles title), so it was nice to go back there after eight years (for September’s Prudential Hong Kong Open).

 

Do you think you are the best partner for each other?

Angel: Of course.

Latisha: I think so, yeah. It’s not just because we are sisters. We know each other well and we can speak about anything. If you are playing with another player, you can’t talk about everything. You can’t understand each other that well. With us, we don’t even need to talk to each other and you understand how she feels and how you can help her.

 

You also argue with each other, which you probably can’t do with other players.

Latisha: Yeah, but it’s in a good way. Even like … we’re not fighting … but the match gets better because we both understand we want to win the match. We have the same goal, but sometimes we have a difference of opinion and we’ll find a way to win a match.

 

The 'aggessive' Angel, who turned 21 in September, has reached the top 20 in doubles after a breakthrough year.

The ‘aggessive’ Angel, who turned 21 in September, has reached the top 20 in doubles after a breakthrough year.

Latisha, can you describe what Angel is like on court – very aggressive?

Latisha: Yeah, very aggressive … you mean against our opponents or me (laughs)? Against our opponents, yeah, she’s very aggressive. She’s the young one. Not as many people know her as know me, so she’s the biggest weapon. She’s the one who can finish the point. I can help her at the back and she can finish the point.

 

Angel, how would you describe your elder sister?

Angel: I think she’s also aggressive on court (laughs). We won a point in one match on an outside court, and she shouted ‘COME ON’ so loud that I think everyone on centre court could hear it. Mentally she’s very strong and when we feel the pressure on court, she can stay there to like … hold the team to be still in the match … do you understand?

Latisha: I’m going to translate for her (laughs). I think what she’s trying to say is that when there’s pressure I’m trying to hold the match together and not let us play separately, to try to play as a team and find the best way.

 

How have you been inspired by seeing Hsieh Su-wei and Peng Shuai win Wimbledon and the French Open, and Li Na win Grand Slam singles?

Latisha: It’s always nice to see Asian players to win the title. It proves that many more players have to chance to play at the highest level. I’ve been to the final a couple of times [at Grand Slams]. We’re all trying to get stronger and prove to the world, so I think that’s very good.

 

How well do you know Hsieh Su-wei?

Latisha: I’ve known her since we were both young because the top players in Taiwan know each other, but we’ve never really practised together. Everybody has their own practice sessions and own schedule. Tennis is not like a team sport like basketball or baseball, so you don’t spend much time together, but for sure, one success will inspire everyone, not just in Taiwan but all Chinese players and the whole of Asia.

 

Finally, how has the profile of tennis changed in Taiwan following the success of the women and also Rendy Lu Yen-hsun, Asia’s No. 2 men’s player?

Latisha: Tennis is not the biggest sport in Taiwan, like baseball and basketball. I think tennis and golf are just after those two. I know there are many people playing tennis. It’s getting more popular, there are more people watching and more channels showing live tournaments, so I think it’s betting much better. More people are getting into it, not just playing. Before, they play a lot, but don’t really watch or follow their own players, but now they’re really focused on our results. It could be pressure, but it’s very good for us.

 

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