Haas triumphs on grass in Halle over Djokovic
Nobody really expected this before the tournament began: Tommy Haas has won his first ever event on grass at the 17th GERRY WEBER OPEN. In a pulsating final, he sprang a surprise in defeating the World Ranking number four Novak Djokovic 6-3, 6-7 (4-7), 6-1. (photo: pmk)
The fans inside the GERRY WEBER Stadium have had to wait nine years to see a German victorious here, and the 31-year-old Tommy Haas had everybody's backing to achieve this unlikely triumph. But what does 'unlikely' mean? Whoever saw Haas against Roger Federer in Paris or Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in Halle will know that nothing is unlikely with him.
Many had claimed that Haas' match with Tsonga during the week was the best match of the tournament, but the first set of the final could certainly compete with that. It had everything. Djokovic gave it all he had while Haas gave that little bit more; he exceeded himself. The German's backhand was the key as he sent shot after shot whistling past Djokovic's ears with 12,000 spectators in awe. Haas then moved up a gear in the eighth game with his devastating backhand earning him his first break point with a divine pass shot. 'Nole' Djokovic made a mistake with a forehand return and it was 5-3 to Haas. Moments later, he had the first set all wrapped up and a Mexican wave did the rounds inside the stadium.
Yet Djokovic proved to be the tough opponent everybody had expected and he was fired up by his own game, and the odd dispute with the line judges. He defended two break points in the third game and finally discovered his trademark drop shot which had served him well this week. But since he had not managed even a single break point in the first two sets, everything seemed to be pointing at Haas to win the tie-break. But Haas' serve suddenly betrayed him and, with three double faults, he gifted Djokovic the set. “Without them, I would have lost the set,” admitted Djokovic afterwards. He knew he had not played well.
Haas is showing the best tennis of his life in 2009. Strength of nerve is now part of his armoury, as he showed in the semi-final against Philipp Kohlschreiber.“I was a bit anxious about my weak serve,” he admitted after the match. “I was putting myself under a lot of pressure, but fortunately it came back just in time.”
Haas started furiously in the third set and had break balls as early as the second game, and he took full advantage of the Serb's weak serve. As a double-fault awarded Haas the first break of the third set, Djokovic destroyed his own racket out of frustration. It seemed to do the trick as Haas struggled on his own serve for the very first time in the subsequent game. But his second serve came to his rescue as he recovered from 0-40 to fend off four break points – the only four of the match for Djokovic. As Haas rediscovered his serve and raced into a 4-1 lead without conceding another point, the resistance was broken. The last break to make it 5-1 soon followed and, after two hours and 12 minutes, Haas landed his final volley for the victory. “I knew my time had come,” he continued. It was a “magnificent feeling” to win another title after such a long time. “And to do it in Germany!” made it all the more sweeter.
It was the 12th tournament victory of the German's career, his first on grass and also his first in Halle. “I have now won tournaments on all four surfaces and that means a lot,” admitted the champion at the press conference. And now he will turn his attention to Wimbledon “with a smile on my face after this great week here.” He still does not have a new coach, though. But things seem to be working fine without one. “My sister and my fiancee Sara Foster are coaching me,” he added with a smile.
Djokovic, on the other hand, was disappointed, but he thanked the crowd for their support all week. Speaking in German, since he trained for two years in Munich as a youngster, he said: “I am really looking forward to next year.”