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February 22, 2013

Old Dudz Rulz - Tommy Haas

How many players can you think of, in any sport, that have won the Comback Player of the Year award -- twice. 

That's what Tommy Haas, at 34 years old, the oldest player in the ATP top 100 rankings has done. Now, after beating John Isner and making the finals at San Jose, Haas is back to 18 in the world. 

People forget that Haas was number two in the world behind only Pete Sampras, whom Haas beat three times. After repeated injuries and multiple surgeries it would have been easy for Haas to pack it in, but he must love tennis.

Let's have Bruce Jenkins of SFGate and SI.com describe what Haas has overcome: 

"Consider for a few moments, however, what this man has been through. Few professionals in any era had to endure as much physical pain - or call upon the patience necessary to grind through incessant rehabilitation.

Within a year's time in 1995-96, Haas broke both of his ankles. He missed most of the 2000 summer due to a bulging disk in his back. Shoulder and elbow problems tormented him throughout the second half of the 2002 season. He missed all of 2003 after undergoing a pair of operations on his shoulder, and right about the time he began wondering if he was injury-prone, he got some concrete proof: At the 2005 Wimbledon, he sprained his right ankle in warm-ups when he stepped on a ball that was rolling his way {JF ball kids let it roll lose under his feet when he was warming up before his first match of the tournament}.

It just never stopped: more shoulder surgery in November of 2007, then operations on his right hip and right elbow in 2010. He was little more than a rumor on tour for two seasons until last year, when he was named the ATP's Comeback Player of the Year and upset Roger Federer to win the grass-court title in Halle, Germany (his home country, before moving permanently to the United States at age 11)."

This photo and the slideshow below come from Haas' matches last week when he beat John Isner in straight sets, then fell to Milos Raonic in the finals. I love the serve photo for several reasons. There is a trend in TV commentary to claim that good servers use an identical toss on every serve, which is to be blunt, not remotely true. Here, you see Haas doing the all-too-rare move of serving-and-volleying behind a second serve. Instead of throwing the ball further behind his back on the second serve, to get to the net quickly, Haas tossed the ball far further in front than he normally does, despite hitting kick/twist. 

The hand-eye-coordination required is remarkable. Do not try this at home. But he lost this point :( 

Haas Serve Kick 2ndSnV _SAP13 6

Click to play the slideshow, then click arrows to enlarge for better viewing. 

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