Tommy Haas and Nicolas Kiefer were expected to smooth the transition into a Becker-less era of German tennis. Kiefer turned professional in 1995, and Haas followed in 1996. That was 20 years ago: Andre Agassi’s first career was about to derail and Steffi Graf was nearing the twilight of her legendary career. Both have since retired, married (each other), and started a family. So much has happened in tennis since that time; Kiefer is now five years into retirement, but his countryman still has the desire to mount yet another comeback from a bothersome shoulder. Neither time nor injury can stop Tommy Haas.
While Haas was never able to fill Becker’s shoes, he’s carved out a solid career for himself over the last two decades. He is an Olympic silver medallist, having lost a five-set match in Sydney to Yevgeny Kafelnikov. He’s reached four semifinals and a further four quarterfinals in Grand Slams, making at least the final eight in each of the four tennis majors. After winning only one of his first eight ATP finals (’97-’00), Haas converted 14 of his next 19 attempts. His 15 career ATP titles places him eighth on the active wins list, with David Ferrer the only player above him who isn’t a Grand Slam winner.
During Haas’ career he’s scored wins over the likes of Federer, Agassi, Sampras, Djokovic, Roddick, Hewitt, Murray, and Kuerten. He’s played against 14 of the 25 men to have held the #1 ranking in men’s tennis, and he’s mustered at least one win against all but three: Nadal, Muster, and Rafter. Who can say definitively why Tommy Haas never became an elite player? Injuries likely played a big part. But, what we can say, with surety, is that he’s had his moments in the sun. Simply put, the former world #2’s career is nothing to scoff at.
Nor should he be considered a ceremonial player at this stage of his career. He was still a formidable opponent before a bad shoulder forced him off the tour last year. He was ranked 18th when he played his last match of 2014, losing in the first round at Roland Garros. Leading up to that point, he had spent the better part of two consecutive years ranked inside the ATP top 25. Should his body cooperate – the biggest hindrance to his career – Haas shouldn’t have to rely on wild cards for too long. As of now, Haas is ranked #849. Will he win a Grand Slam, or even make a deep run at one again? Probably not. But, he’s still got lots to offer.
Haas played his first match in over a year last week in Stuttgart. He won his opening match in straight sets against 59th ranked Mikhail Kukushkin before losing to Bernard Tomic. He’s now 1-2 on the season after an opening round loss this week to Andreas Seppi in Halle. The grass courts at least provide him with a chance to work his way into playing shape before the more grueling hard court season this summer. In the meantime, relish that Haas has decided to come back one more time, showing us he’s not quite ready to call time on a unique tennis career.
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