Fan Favourite Haas Brings Comeback To Delray Beach
To hear Tommy Haas say it, the actual tennis – the winning of matches, the hoisting of trophies – is secondary during his latest and final comeback, which continues this week at the Delray Beach Open.
The 38 year old, who's coming back after his ninth surgery last April, remains more focused on saying farewell to the places he loves the most and having his oldest daughter watch it all.
“I want to finish on my own terms. That's really what it's all about,” Haas told ATP World Tour Uncovered. “I'd like to go back to some of these events that I've had a great time playing at and just say goodbye in my own way and see if I can still play some good tennis and mainly also have my oldest daughter Valentina still somewhere on the sidelines cheering me on.”
Before January, when Haas had to retire during his first-round match at the Australian Open, it had been months since 6-year-old Valentina and Haas' fans had been able to root for him on the court. The German had been out of action since October 2015, when he fell to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the first round at the Erste Bank Open 500.
Last April, Haas underwent surgery to repair a torn ligament and a ligament-like structure on his right foot, the latest part of his body to go under the knife. Haas had previously endured surgeries on his shoulders, rotator cuffs, elbows, hips and ankles.
But the former World No. 2 has learned to see the positive side of things, and he's appreciating this extra time during the final stage of his 21-year career.
“I just think that sometimes there's always a lot of reasons for everything. If I didn't have maybe the last shoulder surgery again or the foot surgery, maybe Valentina wouldn't have gotten to see her Dad play,” said Haas, who plans to bring her to events in a few months.
Coming back at least the ninth time from surgeries has been hard on the 6'2” right-hander. After his foot surgery in April, he couldn't do much of anything for about four months.
“You lose pretty much all your muscles in your body, and it takes a lot of time to try to get back in some kind of shape,” Haas said.
Before Monday night, when he and Canadian Vasek Pospisil won their first-round doubles match at the Delray Beach Tennis Center, Haas hadn't won a tour-level contest since 2015 Wimbledon. (Haas makes his Delray Beach singles debut on Tuesday against Memphis Open finalist Nikoloz Basilashvili).
The veteran has also struggled to balance his different roles. In addition to his comeback, he's working a more than full-time job as the BNP Paribas Open tournament director in Indian Wells. He also has two young daughters at home whom he hates to leave, although Valentina is starting to understand what Daddy has been doing all these years.
“Every time I'm away she always asks me if I'm winning a trophy. Usually the answer is I'm just trying to win a match here,” said Haas, who's won 15 ATP World Tour titles, including the 2011 Delray Beach Open. “Like I said, it's going to be great to have her somewhere in the stands, sometime in the next few weeks or months, watching me play and cheering me on – the memories I want to make.”
She will have thousands of people like her in the stands, smiling and cheering for Haas one last time.