Nine surgeries later, 38-year-old Tommy Haas gives his all in Delray

by: Nina Pantic | February 23, 2017

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Tommy Haas, the Indian Wells tournament director who was once ranked No. 2, is still plugging away. (AP)

DELRAY BEACH, Fla. — Tommy Haas picked up his first win since 2015 this week, though it wasn’t exactly how he might have imagined it.

The former world No. 2, back from yet another long injury hiatus, won his first-round doubles match with 2014 Wimbledon doubles champion Vasek Pospisil. Teaming up for the first time at the last minute, the duo took out Adrian Mannarino and Steve Darcis, 6-4, 6-3.

The win marked Haas’ first victory—in singles or doubles—since the 2015 U.S. Open.

“From my injuries, I feel sort of fit,” Haas said. “I still have a lot of work to do to play some tennis that I would like to play again. But to come out here and play doubles with such a nice guy, and such a good doubles player as well, worked out great.”

But that would be Haas’ only win of the week.

He dropped his opening-round singles match to Nikolaz Basilashvili, 6-7 (4), 7-6 (8), 6-2, and then he and Pospisil lost to Treat Huey and Max Mirnyi on Thursday.

Still, the Delray Beach crowds welcomed his successful appearance on court wholeheartedly.

“That's very nice, always,” Haas said. “I think nobody really likes to play in front of empty stands. So coming to tournaments—not that I’m playing to be recognized or anything—but it's always nice to have fans come out.”

And there should be plenty of fans supporting the 38-year-old after all he’s done in 21 years on tour. The German has won 15 ATP titles and reached the semifinals of the Australian Open three times, peaking at No. 2 in 2002. But his career has been tainted by injuries, as he’s suffered through nine surgeries (the latest coming last year, on his foot).

What motivates a player in his late 30s to keep digging and fighting back when his ranking is sitting at No. 1,024?  

“Really, to be honest, just to see for myself what I can accomplish one more time,” Haas said. “What kind of level can I get to? That's really one of the big goals, one of the big challenges that I present to myself.”

But there’s more—there has to be. Haas has two young girls—six-year-old Valentina and 1-year-old Josephine—with his wife, Sara Foster, and they kept him busy during his recovery time last year.



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“My daughter is 6 years and 2 months now, so she understands what her dad does,” Haas said. “It would be great for her to at least watch me a few times as my tennis career comes to an end. [For her] to understand and watch the whole match in the box, that is my main goal.”

Haas already has a viable post-tennis career blossoming. He was named the tournament director of Indian Wells last year, replacing Raymond Moore. Despite the new role, Haas is determined to play through the year, something his Indian Wells colleagues are well aware of.

“They have a terrific team there for years,” Haas said. “The other people that are working there have been nothing but supportive and generous to tell me, ‘Go ahead and do what you've got to do.’”

Haas has juggled being a first-time director and returning to the tour a final time seamlessly—thanks, in part, to modern technology.

“With email these days and phone calling, and FaceTiming, it’s very easy to be a part of every conversation on things that need to be discussed,” Haas said. “It's been great. I'm very much looking forward to being there and to keep putting that tournament onto another level, which it almost has done every year.”

The German said he’s hoping to be part of the tournament for years to come (though he can’t both direct and compete this March).

While his off-court agenda is set, you can next see him on court in Miami, where he’ll be trying to get his first singles ATP win since Wimbledon in 2015. And there may be even more doubles action in store for the German.

“I can see why people can play doubles into their early 40s,” Haas said. “You don't have to do as much running, and you're not that exhausted after a doubles match. So that's a good thing.”

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