Commentary

Aggressive Haas fancies free points

Originally Published: July 1, 2009
By Greg Garber | ESPN.com

WIMBLEDON, England -- In his 13th season as a professional, in his 11th attempt at the All England Club, Tommy Haas is finally through to the semifinals.

The 31-year-old German handled No. 4 seed Novak Djokovic with something approaching ease, winning 7-5, 7-6 (6), 4-6, 6-3 on Wednesday. Next up is Roger Federer, who dispatched Ivo Karlovic 6-3, 7-5, 7-6 (3) to reach his 21st consecutive Grand Slam semifinal.

Haas trailed 3-6 in the second-set tiebreaker.

"I was saying to myself, 'Wake up,'" Haas said. "Next thing I know, I won five points in a row. That was the match."

Appropriately, the deciding point came at net, when forward-thinking Haas stretched to hit a backhand volley into the open court.

"I could have won the second set," Djokovic said. "I just made some incredible unforced errors and I was just, you know, shocked on the court. It just turns around. You're two sets down.

"If you're playing quarterfinals against a good player as Tommy Haas is, your time passes by."

Said Haas: "If you just look through the past, 13 years of me playing Wimbledon, there's a lot of bad luck involved. This is obviously the best results, the best tennis I've played here -- the best I've been feeling."

Haas has won all 10 of his matches on grass this season, going back to Halle, Germany, where he beat Djokovic in the final only 18 days ago.

"I really didn't have too many expectations when I got to Halle," Haas said. "[The win] gave me confidence, which is something I've needed for a long time.

"To be in the semifinals, for me, is really amazing."

Haas was aggressive throughout, always trying to work his way to net. He approached net 49 times and won 31 of those points.

"When you get older like me, you try to get free points as much as you can," Haas said. "It's been working so far. It's good when I'm serving well. I feel like at net I can do some good stuff."

And when he came to net one last time -- after a second serve, no less -- Djokovic slapped his forehand return into the net. Haas betrayed no emotion at all -- not even a smile. Grim-faced, he congratulated Djokovic and stoically walked off with him.

[+] EnlargeTommy Haas
Ian Walton/Getty ImagesTommy Haas reached his fourth Grand Slam semifinal and first since the 2007 Australian Open.

No, Haas is not happy merely to be in the fourth major semifinal of his career. He has some unfinished business with Federer, to whom he has lost eight straight times.

At this year's French Open, Haas led Federer two sets to love but let him escape, winning only six games in the last three sets.

Will revenge be on his mind Friday? "That would be nice," Haas said. "I'm going to go out there and try to annoy him."

Federer, for one, seemed to be genuinely happy for Haas, who has overcome myriad injuries in his career.

"He's always been one of the best ball strikers in the game," Federer said. "I think he's really gotten his game together again. He's had a rough few years, you know, behind him. But it's so nice to see him back. We're very friendly. We're good friends.

"I hope we can live up to the expectations and repeat a good match like we had in Paris."

Haas, despite his somewhat stern demeanor on court, said he is trying to remember to tingle, to appreciate what is happening. Playing in a Grand Slam event, on a big court with huge crowd -- that's why, he said, he's still playing.

"Tennis players have a short career, some shorter than others," Haas said. "Then you have a whole life left. You want to look back and say, 'Hey, I played the sport that I love as long as I could, and I've tried my best.'

"You look back at what you accomplished, and you want to be proud of yourself. So that's why."

Greg Garber is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

Greg Garber

Writer, Reporter
Greg Garber joined ESPN in 1991 and provides reports for NFL Countdown and SportsCenter. He is also a regular contributor to Outside the Lines and a senior writer for ESPN.com.