By James A. Crabtree
What thirty five year old Tommy Haas has done this year is just absurd. The guy is not just old; he is pretty much prehistoric.
Tommy turned professional in 1996 and lost his first grand slam match to Michael Stich at the U.S. Open that year. That was the same year Renée Zellweger said “You had me at hello” to Jerry Maguire, everyone danced ‘the Macarena’ and approximately 45 million people were using the Internet.
Some of the big and very much now retired players young Tommy beat in the years following were Yevgeny Kafelnikov in 1997, Marcelo Rios in 1998, Tim Henman and Andre Agassi in 1999, Pete Sampras in 2000 and Andy Roddick in 2002.
Yet Tommy is still swinging. Better, stronger and faster. In many ways he makes a mockery of the suggestion that the modern player is a much better player/athlete/tactician. He still plays very much the same game he always has. The groundstrokes are still crisp and aggressive, he isn’t afraid of the net and he will likely still have a slight emotional meltdown during the match.
Many a professional athlete has tried a comeback from the usual ailments that affects us all over time, but few have shown the resolve to not only to make it back, but stay back and truly return to a respectable level.
Haas has come back from various injuries for the joy of playing in front of his young daughter. His determination to continue playing shows there is a fire inside that is still burning. It is obvious that Tommy has an increased duty to physical fitness, as he is known to practice hard but also put in the work before and after practice. It would not be unreasonable to believe that Tommy Haas is indeed the result of military intervention courtesy of the Office of Scientific Intelligence and is the new 6 million dollar man (that’s 31 million adjusted to todays money).
2013 has seen him register wins over Alexandr Dolgopolov, Gilles Simon, John Isner and a certain Mr Novak Djokovic. All while wearing the sort of awful translucent fashion statements and lame black socks that you expect your dad to wear in attempt to embarrass. Indeed, Tommy is still human and a dad, so some things should be expected.
The German who is as much an American now is the quintessential nearly man, one of the best to have knocked on the door of grand slam contention having reached 3 Australian Open semi-finals and 1 Wimbledon semi-final. Obviously he still believes he can add his name to the history books having climbed to his current ranking of 14 after an all time high of 2 back in 2002. Not a bad comeback after dropping out of the rankings in 2010.
Tommy does have a long list to be encouraged by such as Andre Agassi, who held the number won spot aged thirty three and Ken Rosewell who won the 1972 Australian Open aged thirty seven. Fabrice Santoro played twenty one years on tour, Jimmy Connors competed in his final ATP match in 1996 at the age of forty three and Pancho Gonzalez sustained his mission until the age of forty six.
Tommy will surely join this list at some time. But for now Tommy is no Haas been.
by James A. Crabtree
Seriously what is his secret? Still, at this mature vintage Roger Federer still makes a victim of mostly everyone. It beggars belief.
But how has this happened? Every year we hear the commentator’s prophesise how the game has changed, how the players hit harder with more spin and are better athlete’s etcetera etcetera etcetera.
Years ago I remember a commentator at Wimbledon during an Agassi match state that the single backhand is all but dead. That heavy topspin employed with extreme Sergi Brugera type grips is the only way the modern game can be played. ‘Change with the times or be left behind’ he said.
But, Federer’s game is arguably the most classic on tour. A time warp dominating the new generation. Aside from the dodgy shorts he would be required to wear in previous generations Federer would not look out of place in the sixties, seventies or eighties.
So what is the secret to his classic game? Has time been frozen?
It is easy to imagine. Federer is sponsored by Rolex, who make very, very nice watches. Now, what if the Rolex watch was actually able to do more than just tell you the time. What if those who made the watches were able to freeze time? Imagine if every time Federer looked to be missing a beat the watch maker, a little man with a German accent, tartan waistcoat and monocle on his eye, simply wound the watch up to speed.
(Insert German accent here) “Now vee are up to Speed. Wunderbar.”
Before you know it Federer is playing like it is 2004. But hang on, its 2012. Federer is still number one.
It must be far more complicated than that…
No, not as complicated as quantum leaping because Doctor Sam Beckett couldn’t play tennis. And nothing to do with Marty McFly either. Considering the amount Federer has travelled it could be something to do with the fountain of youth but Federer, although youthful for the amount of time he has spent in the sun, has aged a little.
Apart from a few minor back niggles Federer has remained more injury free than any sports man in recent memory…
Is Roger Federer cryogenically refrigerated at night? His muscles and mind maintained or enhanced by the process of freezing at extremely low temperatures. It is not too hard to picture good ol’ Mirka in a lab coat and surgeons mask, turning down the temperature then closing the door nightly on Roger.
“Night night Roger, love you,” she would say.
“Night night Mirks, love you too.” He would respond. Before you know it a whiff of dry ice would fill the room and Federer would be sleeping soundly in one of the pods from the Alien movie.
In the morning he would wake, bright and as spritely as ten years ago.