biggest indulgence

ATP Spotlight on Robin Haase

During the Sony Ericsson Open, I sat down with Dutch ATP player and current world #53, Robin Haase to chat memorable moments, the perks of being a tennis player, the players he would most want to party with and Novak Djokovic as the toughest opponent he has ever faced.

Even though he was running late to the interview, he was apologetic and friendly, showcasing his signature curls and inviting smile. I made sure to take full advantage of his good attitude after defeating Australian Marinko Matosevic earlier in the day, 6-3, 6-4. He will next face 22nd-seed Jurgen Melzer in the second round.

What is your most memorable moment on-court?

It’s a tough one. It’s always tough to say that because you are always in a different time of your career – and you have many moments. I can go back to when I was 12, the most important thing was to win the national championships. Of course, that’s not my most memorable moment, but it’s always tough to say what is. I had a great experience almost beating Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon [in 2010] — took him to five sets, on center court. He was defending champion and #1 in the world, and of course, to play on the nicest court of the tennis world was a great experience. Also, last year I won my first ATP event and I think that’s, of course, a memorable moment.

What’s the best part of being a tennis player?

The best part is that I made tennis, which is my hobby, as my job. I think that not a lot of people can say that they do what they love to do, every day, day in and day out. But it’s not as easy as people think. It’s not just as glamorous a life as people think. It’s also a hard life but I enjoy it every day.

What’s the toughest part?

The toughest part is the many weeks of travelling, playing a lot of tournaments, having to go to almost all the continents. That’s not easy. You lose almost every week, so every week you have to recover from disappointment. That’s hard.

Do you have any superstitions on court?

No, not really. I think there’s also a big difference between superstition and rituals, so I have the same kind of warm up to prepare for the match. But it’s not like Nadal with the bottles, or stepping on lines. I don’t have that. Sometimes I take the same ball and sometimes I don’t.

If you’re hosting a party, what three tennis players do you invite?

I think I would pick the ones I am closest friends to. With friends you go to parties and dinners. One of the guys would be Jarkko Nieminen. I think almost everyone would invite him, he’s a great guy. I know Marin Cilic from juniors too. I get along with, for example, from the States, Michael Russell. There are a lot of guys, of course, but there are some guys you kind of practice more with, have dinner with. So I think these guys are it.

Who’s the toughest opponent you have ever faced on-court?

Of course, it’s the top 3 or 4 players. It’s always tough to play them. I wouldn’t say Nadal is the toughest for me to play because I took him to five sets. For me, it’s Djokoivc. I played him twice and didn’t even have a chance to get close to winning a set. So that’s probably the toughest guy for me to play. But outside of that there is also Soderling, Berdych, Del Potro — these kinds of players are tough to beat.

What are two things you couldn’t live without?

(Long pause) Air? (laughs) I’m not really materialistic, I don’t care about a lot of “stuff.” But of course, friends and family, and health, that’s most important in life. Just recently in Indian Wells, a family member of mine died, so that’s most important, and all the other “stuff” are extra.

How did you handle the personal loss during Indian Wells on the emotional side?

That was fine. I knew it was going to happen. I decided to go and play, so for me was ok. I was almost happy that it happened because it was better that way [because of the suffering].

And to end on a fun note, what is your biggest indulgence?

I’m not really the gadget guy, don’t wear watches. So I can’t think of something.

A type of food, maybe?

You can always wake me up for good Japanese or Italian. I love to eat. Every day I go out to restaurants. As a tennis player, you get to see a lot of good restaurants so you get really picky. So certainly, that’s something I look forward to every day. You’re always practicing, so going out for dinner for one, two, or even three hours at a time, you can have fun and enjoy.