When he underwent two surgeries (hip and elbow) a month apart in the beginning of 2010, at the age of 31, many were those who deemed that the career of former World no 2 Tommy Haas was coming to en end. After all, haven’t we seen players like Guga Kuerten and Fernando González unable to get back to their level after such surgeries (Feña retired earlier this year)? Haven’t we also seen it with Lleyton Hewitt (who is still fighting on after yet another surgery), and David Nalbandian?
Tommy Haas came back on Tour a little over a year later, at the French Open, logically struggling to find his level again, nevertheless reaching the quarter-finals in Vienna near the end of the season, having come all the way from qualifications.
This year, he started with a bit of injury issues as well (calf, knee), and was only able to find his rhythm again during the clay season, where he reached the semi-finals in Munich (l. to Marin Cilic), and having to qualify for the French Open, he ran out of gas in the third round, when he faced Richard Gasquet.
Since then, however, he has shown that the injuries were now a thing of the past, defeating Roger Federer in the Halle final to win his first title in three years (Halle as well, in 2009), losing a heart-breaker in the first round of Wimbledon to countryman Philipp Kohlschreiber, and reaching the finals in both Hamburg (l. to Juan Mónaco) and Washington (l. to Alexandr Dolgopolov).
Two days after this final, Haas took on another veteran whose last few years have been marred by injuries, David Nalbandian. That second set alone was worth the price of the ticket for the match (an epic 13-11 tiebreaker in favour of the Argentine). He then went on to defeat Gilles Simon once again, just like he did in Hamburg, before coming back from a set down to defeat another veteran of the Tour, Radek Stepanek, in 2h03.
A couple of hours later, Haas came back on court, this time to face the no 1 seed, Novak Djokovic, for his second match of the day. It was to wonder whether the German veteran would have enough gas left in the tank for this match, which, on paper, was promising to be a great match.
In the end, the match really kept its promises, as Haas came out maybe not as energetic as he has been in the last two weeks, but enough to fight a mighty fight against a still not completely sharp Novak Djokovic (who, after the match, cited jet lag to explain his ups and downs in this tournament).
For 2h32, the two men exchanged great shot after great shot, rallied as if their lives depended on it, and delighted the crowd present on the Rexall Centre Grandstand (a full house of 3,000 spectators), playing the highest possible level of tennis in their second respective match of the day.
In the end, Haas’s serve gave up on him, but both players gave the public on site, and those at home, a great show, Djokovic winning 6-3 3-6 6-3 just before midnight to book his semi-final spot, letting out his primal instincts like we are now used to after big, tight matches. It was, without a doubt, the best match of the tournament so far.
Nevertheless, it is the performance of the German that stays in mind after this match. For the last two months, he has played tennis at the highest level, after suffering many injuries, and all that at the “grand” age of 34, proving once again that no one should retire a player until he is ready to do so himself.
Next week, in Cincinnati, the hazard of the draw made that he will, again, face David Nalbandian in the first round, the winner of what we are hoping to be an epic match to face no 6 seed Juan Martín del Potro.