This week, Tommy Haas will celebrate his 36th birthday. And the dean of the Top 100 is still fit as a fiddle, as proven by his continued presence in the Top 20 for nearly fifteen months. A respectable time? It is however a very short time on the scale of his career with 19 years spent on the professional tour.
...7 Operations and 2 visits to the box "unclassified" in the ATP rankings...
...For as many comebacks to the foreground. More patched up than Mel Gibson on his entire filmography, but better preserved than the former star of Lethal Weapon and Braveheart.
...Thomas Johansson, winner in Grand Slam. It was close, and Tommy would have been his opponent in final. With all the hopes that it implies, for as long as one is more serious than Marat Safin.
...Lleyton Hewitt with long hair.
...Andre Agassi in distress, trying to regain some confidence on the Challenger tour.
...The big fashion of wearing caps backwards. He also remains one of the last followers of this wonderful trend.
...Winning a tournament despite being 349th in the world.
...Marcelo Rios World No. 1.
...14 different World No. 1...
...And Beating 12 of them at one time or another, including Sampras 3 times, Agassi 4 times, Federer 3 times and Djokovic 3 times. Only absent from his list of conquests: Patrick Rafter and Rafael Nadal.
... Arnold Schwarzenegger not yet governor of California. A friend of Tommy's Father, the future 'Governator' kept an eye on him when he was at Bollettieri Academy.
...Great German tennis with Boris Becker, Steffi Graf and Michael Stich at the top.
...Tobias Kamke, Simon Greul and Michael Berrer in the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas: not so great German tennis. The Rise and Fall.
...Roger without Mirka.
... Players lounge without Internet to stave off the boredom.
...Mats Wilander when he was still a tennis player.
...A defeat in Grand Slam without losing his service once. It was at Wimbledon in 1999 against Wayne "The unbreakable" Arthurs: 6/7 6/7 6/7.
...The WTA Tour when it was more bankable than the ATP.
...The Sydney Olympics, the Grand Slam Cup and the Masters 1000 in Stuttgart. He even won the latter, and made it to the final in the other two.
...Todd Martin with no grey hair.
...Spanish tennis only winning on clay.
...Systematic serve-and-volley on grass...
... And stringings 100% made of hose.
...The campaign "New Balls, please", where the ATP was predicting the Champions of the 2000s. Roger Federer, Lleyton Hewitt and Tommy Haas were sharing the bill with... Nicolas Lapentti, Jan-Michael Gambill and Mariano Zabaleta.
...The years where being handsome on the ATP Tour was not enough, all the girls were only looking at Marat Safin.
...The Bryan brothers as singles players.
...A man called B. Becker sending Andre Agassi in retirement. Without making a first name for himself for it.
...The Super 9 becoming Tennis Masters Series, then Masters Series, then Masters 1000.
...The feeling that, sometimes, history must be written, and even an advantage of 7/6 7/5 4-3 30-40 is not enough to change it.
...Stefan Edberg's farewell tour in 1996.
...Amongst juniors, opponents of Yugoslav nationality...
...And Roland Garros without the Suzanne Lenglen court.
...Juan Martin del Potro with undamaged wrists. And it was hard: he didn't take a set to the Argentine in five matches.
...Seasons when Germany hosted the Masters (Hanover), the Grand Slam Cup (Munich), a Masters 1000 indoor (Stuttgart), another Masters 1000 (Hamburg), the World Team Cup (Dusseldorf) and tournaments in Munich, Hamburg and Stuttgart. Not to mention the WTA events.
...Defeat against Michael Chang. Twice.
...A time when 12 active players had won Grand Slams.
...Radek Stepanek when he was single.
...The annoyed look of his elders on the young pretentious he was in the 90s...
...And respect in the eyes of his cadets today.
...A second place in the world, four Grand Slam semi-finals, five ATP titles and 556 games won, including 104 in Grand Slams. And it's not over.