x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Tommy Haas still has grand plans

The German's career has been blighted by injuries, but this week's win has shown he has plenty to play for.

Tommy Haas, left, beat Roger Federer in the Gerry Weber final – for the first time since 2002.
Tommy Haas, left, beat Roger Federer in the Gerry Weber final – for the first time since 2002.

Tommy Haas's first ATP victory came over Jim Courier, in 1999.

His next three were over Nicolas Massu, Pete Sampras and Guillermo Canas, and if you feel as if Haas must be something like a living link to the greats of a decade ago, well, he is.

A fair number of tennis fans must have assumed the 34-year-old German had retired

It certainly seemed that way; he had hardly been heard of since a surprise run into the semi-finals of Wimbledon in 2009.

When he arrived in Halle, in his homeland, to play in the Gerry Weber Open, he entered as a wild card.

That was certainly fair considering he was ranked No 87 in the world.

He had won only seven matches in 2012, and endured a 14-month layoff that began in 2010 and extended into 2011 after he had surgery on his hip.

But once back playing on the grass not far from his childhood home in Hamburg, Haas woke up the echoes.

In the final, he defeated Roger Federer 7-6, 6-4, his first victory over his Swiss friend since 2002, when Federer was only beginning to demonstrate the sort of player he would be.

He had run off nine consecutive victories over Haas before the tables turned on Sunday.

Haas has had a fine career.

In his prime he rose to No 2 in the world, in May of 2002, and twice made the semi-finals of a slam.

He fell short of the pinnacle of the sport because he was rarely healthy, and because his zenith came at a time when nearly a dozen men clung to the realistic notion that they could be No 1. From the turn of the century until 2003, no fewer than seven men fought their way to the top - Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, Marat Safin, Gustavo Kuerten, Lleyton Hewitt, Juan Carlos Ferrero and Andy Roddick.

Federer, eternally gracious, seemed almost pleased that Haas won the title at his expense.

The German said the victory ranked with any of his career, which began in 1996.

"It's probably up there, if not the sweetest one, considering the injuries, considering not knowing how much longer I can really go or I can get back to a certain level."

Haas has become a family man. He is married to the American actress Sarah Foster, and they have a daughter, Valentina, who is 19 months old.

At Halle, Haas said his twin ambitions are to win 500 ATP matches (he is at 482), and to play long enough that his daughter will remember seeing him play as a professional.

If he can hold this form for another couple of years, both goals are realistic.

poberjuerge@thenational.ae

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