After 12 months out of the sport, few fans could have imagined Haas would return from a right shoulder injury – yet another malady that has littered his career. But, at 37 years of age, 20 years after turning pro, he did.
“It was a very special feeling, especially when I didn’t know what it would feel like or how you might perform walking out onto court,” said Haas, who underwent surgery on 17 June 2014.
“You obviously want to play your best tennis in front of a home crowd in Germany. There were emotions before and after the match, but it was a great start to get a win.”
The victory, the 562nd of his career, came over Mikhail Kukushkin 6-4, 7-5 mid-afternoon at the MercedesCup, where he had finished runner-up in 1999 (l. to Norman).
“The positive thing was that I felt ready to go out there and finally see where I am at,” said Haas. “Obviously, it is still not at a point where I want it to be, but maybe it will never get back to that point anyway. You have to start somewhere and see what’s going on, especially during a match.
“There were times when it felt sore still, where it didn’t give me the strength or the speed I would like. But you’ve got to test it out and see how it feels and how I recover today, tomorrow. It didn’t get worse during the match, which is a good thing.”
Wild card Haas will next face fifth seed Bernard Tomic in the second round.
“The goal is to stay healthy, to get the shoulder better and better to a point where I feel like I am comfortable to play and can focus on trying to win matches, instead of worrying about getting enough speed on my first serve, or how it feels after a set or two.
“These are the things that you don’t want to worry about too much when you go out there, as matches often come down to one or two points. I’d like to get some matches to get a feel of how it’s like to compete. Then I’ll make a decision from there.
“Overall, I am really happy. The shoulder is feeling pretty good.
“That’s why I am trying to come back!”