Haas Fails to Roll Back the Years
Ernests Gulbis beat Tommy Haas, above, with a taxing five-set victory, 3-6, 4-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-3.
Tommy Haas, who surged back into the top 20 of the ATP World Tour rankings this season at 34, played in his 15th United States Open on Wednesday. He was seeded 21st.
It ended quickly, unexpectedly, against a Latvian named Ernests Gulbis, who is far younger (24) but had struggled far more in 2012. Haas has been around long enough to know that these things happen, to know how much goes into each win and loss.
Gulbis ultimately ended Haas’s reunion tour early, with a taxing five-set victory, 3-6, 4-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-3.
“When you lose a match, you’re always disappointed, no matter what,” Haas said afterward. “But obviously at this stage it really hurts. You know, I’ve had a great last four months. The position I’m in right now, I don’t think I would have ever thought to get back for it.”
In June 2011, Haas held the ranking of No. 896. That is not a misprint. At the beginning of this season, he had improved to No. 205. Then came the comeback, a title in Halle, Germany, finals in Hamburg and Washington, a victory over Roger Federer, the world No. 1.
As a three-time quarterfinalist at the Open, Haas figured he could summon another run. Yet though men’s tennis has become a a physical game in which experience is paramount, there comes a point when a player gets too old. Haas does not think he is too old yet, but he noted Wednesday that he would have won his match if it was best of three sets, not five.
“It’s tough when you are getting a little bit older, the recovery, even when you are quite fit,” he said. “Maybe one-half step or just a step might be missing. It’s just not enough against these young, fit guys sometimes. You’re not really playing percentage tennis, and that’s how you end up losing.”
Haas said he let his match against Gulbis slip away in the third set. He played that set tightly, and made “bad errors” and let Gulbis back in the match, essentially.
Yet Haas still looked forward afterward, and not toward retirement.
“That’s what you get to love about it,” he said. “But it can also be brutal. That’s certainly the moment right now.”
Haas continued: “You know what? I love this game.”
And continued: “I’ve put myself in a position to pretty much have a full calendar year next year. And why not?”