Haas injuries

Tommy Haas: A True Feel-Good Story

By Yeshayahu Ginsburg

Not every sport needs a feel-good story, but they really help bring in fans that might otherwise not be so interested. Unfortunately for tennis, its feel-good story—especially the American ones—have fallen flat recently.

Mardy Fish lost 30 pounds and made fitness more a part of his life instead of just his tennis game a few years ago. He finally began to consistently compete in the deeper rounds of Masters and Slams. Then, just over a year ago, he discovered a heart condition and has barely competed since.

Brian Baker was everyone’s heartwarming story last year. He was a top junior player but missed almost seven years after a long string of injuries that necessitated five surgeries. He came back last year to reach the final in Nice (after coming through the qualifying) and was competitive at both Roland Garros and Wimbledon. He tore his meniscus in the second round of this year’s Australian Open and hasn’t competed since.

This is why Tommy Haas is such a breath of fresh air. Haas is not a traditional feel-good story. There is no massive life change. There is no adversity that has been overcome in extreme and immediate fashion. Haas is just pure grit, determination, and hard work.

Haas first debuted in the ATP rankings in October 1993, almost 20 years ago. After 10 years of play (the first few on the lower tours, like everyone does), Haas reached a career high of World No. 2 in May of 2002. There is no telling how high he could have gone had tragic circumstances, including his father being in a coma and a severe injury, taken him out of tennis for an extended period of time. During Haas’s leave, Roger Federer arose as the dominant player and Haas lost his next nine matches against the Swiss, until finally beating him in the Halle final last year.

Haas returned to the game in 2004, competing and winning titles before reaching the top 10 again in 2007. 2008, however, was marred by injuries and aside from a great run Roland Garros and Wimbledon in 2009, Haas’s career was once again derailed.

This is the story of Tommy Haas’s career. He plays well, works his way into form, competes with just about anyone on tour, and then seems to be knocked off track by injuries at the worst time. If you look at a graph of his career ranking, it almost looks like a repeating curve. His ranking rises to the top of the game and then falls drastically when injury forces him to miss extended periods of time—twice missing more than 12 months and falling out of the rankings completely.

Now, at the age of 35, Haas is back once again. He beat Novak Djokovic in Miami en route to reaching his first Masters 1000 semifinal since Paris back in 2006. He is on the verge of the top 10 and has no points to defend from now until Halle. He has all but guaranteed himself a top 16 seed in Roland Garros and will most likely be able to get a favorable draw both there and in Wimbledon. A few wins at Roland Garros could very easily put Haas back in the top 10 for the first time since 2007, which would be an incredible feat.

Haas is competing at a high level past an age where most players have retired. He hasn’t done it with flash or shocking one-time runs. He has been consistently getting better after each return from injury. His feel-good story is not one of fan-rallying epic proportions. It’s the story of a player who has been dealt poor cards in his career and has made the absolute best of them time and time again. It’s the story of a man who has been on the brink of the top of the game but never quite made it—and he has still never let that get him down. Let’s hope that his current stint on tour lasts until he can leave on his own terms this time.

Tommy Haas Reflects on Career, Goals, and Leaves Miami a Winner

March 29, 2013 – In a battle of the 30-and-older ATP veterans, world No. 5 David Ferrer braved out a bold Tommy Haas at the Sony Open in a two-hour topsy-turvy match. The Spaniard solidified his place in his fifth Masters final and looks to win his second Masters title after being victorious in Paris last year.

Though he lost today, Haas didn’t leave empty-handed, but rather notched a few points into the history books during his run this week.

In a match that saw ten breaks of serve, it was the clear the fresher player would inevitably win the grinding match. Early in the third set, Haas went up 3-1 before his forehand and serves started to break down, and the unforced errors crept in. Unable to adjust, Ferrer capitalized on the opening and kept pushing Haas into long rallies, tiring the German into more errors. Ferrer went on to win the next five games and seal the win, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3.

After losing the second set, Haas admitted: “I just tried to forget about it and really regroup in the third and told myself, ‘Come on! All you have to do is play one great final set’ to maybe achieve another big goal of mine” of reaching the finals.

At 3-all, Haas tried to stay positive, but the match began to slip away: “I started missing a little bit and came up (to the net) a little too often. He didn’t miss at all anymore. That’s the difference. That’s why he is where he is and that’s why he deserved to win.”

With his wife Sara and daughter Valentina in tow, Haas decided to forego the hotel experience and instead stay at a friend’s house while in Miami this year. This gave him some time to reflect on his success this week.

“I’m going to have to let it sink in a little bit,” stated Haas. “Anytime you lose it’s tough … but beating Novak Djokovic, coming back, beating Simon, getting to the semis — it’s been an unbelievable tournament, something that I will definitely cherish for the rest of my life.”

At five days shy of his thirty-fifth birthday, Haas is one of the eldest of players on Tour. So how long exactly is he planning on playing? Well, for now, it seems as long as he’s having fun.

“I will try to continue as long as I can, because this is a lot of fun. In the end of the day, the most joyful time I have is when I’m on the court playing great tennis, entertaining the crowd, playing in front of the big, on the big stadiums. Those moments (are) what you dream about when you’re a young kid, you know. You have these imaginations playing at the big tournaments and going out there and competing hard.”

Comparing his own career to Andy Roddick’s consistent play for more than ten years, Haas admitted that he was “shocked” when the American retired after last year’s US Open. Haas’ career was interspersed with injuries and setbacks that pulled him off Tour for more than a year at a time, while Roddick consistently played Masters titles, Davis Cup ties, and stayed in the top 10.

“Maybe it was just too much for him, and he just said, ‘I’m done,’” Haas stated. “My career is totally different … I guess that’s sometimes a little bit of a frightening situation for any athlete to really just say, ‘Okay, I’m done.’”

During his more recent setbacks, Haas was quick to acknowledge that he thought about what his other options were outside of playing on the Tour. And while he didn’t volunteer any specifics, he does hope to stay involved with tennis even after his fruitful career.

“I don’t know yet exactly what I’m going to do,” said Haas. “Obviously I have played with in my mind, you know, the thought of what would I do, and there are things that really interest me. And obviously it’s probably going to be tennis involved and some things that I’m really eager to do maybe even still after my career, and hopefully some of those dreams will come true, as well.