It’s not often a tennis fan attempts to strike up a conversation with a player when they’re on court, especially when it’s the world No.13. Yet that’s exactly what happened to Tommy Haas as he prepared for his third round duel with qualifier Jimmy Wang,
The contest, which had been held over from Thursday due to bad weather, was scheduled for Court 18 – an arena that packs in a fair few spectators both in the stands and on the top of the Broadcast Centre roof. And it was from this lofty vantage point that a particularly vocal bystander pleaded with the German to stop procrastinating and play.
Concerned about the seemingly slippery nature of the court, the former world No.2 had spent a good 10 minutes inspecting the grass with chair umpire Enrich Molina but was reluctant to proceed. While Haas smiled and acknowledged the spectator’s appeal he would not be rushed and for good reason. The 35-year-old has spent much of his career blighted by injury and has not been blessed with the best of luck either.
He almost lost both of his parents in a motor accident in 2002, which perhaps puts turning his ankle here eight year ago during the warm up before his first round match against Janko Tipsarevic into perspective. At the time he was seeded No.19 and despite attempting to play was forced to retire trailing a set and 2-1.
“It's dangerous. It's tough when it's a little bit humid and wet,” Haas said after the match. “Like today, even when we started playing, you know, we warmed up, it was drizzling a little bit. There's no way you can play. You can slip and lose the grip underneath your feet, and it's very dangerous. It's really tough if you do get injured for quite a bit after an incident like that.”
However, the frustrated spectator did not have much longer to wait when, after being told that seven other courts had started proceedings, Haas agreed to play, much to the delight of the crowd which burst into applause and enthusiastic cheering.
The German was in imposing form the start. Suitably match fit from Halle, where he lost to Roger Federer in the semi-finals, Haas set about the destroying his Chinese Taipei opponent with an aggressive game consisting of elegant backhand winners, heavy topspin and frequent net raids.
Wang may have emerged the victor when the men played in Bangkok eight years ago, but he was no match for the holder of 14 titles, who controlled from the start. When he served out the set to love, 21 minutes later, he threw in a fourth ace for good measure.
Haas’s strong serving continued – he delivered 14 aces in total – but it was his elegant winners that defined the match. The No.13 seed broke Wang in the opening game of the second with a beautiful one-handed backhand down the line and eventually sealed the match 6-3, 6-2, 7-5 with a winning forehand volley into the backhand court.
Haas, who is playing his 14th Wimbledon, admitted his injuries had been a struggle at times and that he now appreciates the fact he is healthy and playing good tennis.
“I don't get a handout just because I've had five surgeries in my career,” he said. “It's not like that. You have to earn everything, you know. You can't buy ATP points to buy your ranking. It's not possible; otherwise (Ernests) Gulbis would be No.1 in the world... it's part of life. There's more important things than tennis anyway. But overall I'm healthy. I'm competing. I'm playing the sport I love to play. Everything is good.”
Haas hit 44 winners during the match – twice as many as Wang – and made just eight unforced errors. He meets Spaniard Feliciano Lopez, who won Eastbourne last week, in the third round.
“It's going to be tough," Hass added. "Lefty. He's been in the quarters here three times in his career. He's had some great matches. He's got a great grass-court game, no question about it. I'm going to have to play extremely well to have a chance to win."
20:24...But boy, it was a barrow-load of fun. I hope you enjoyed it even half as much as we did. Thank you for all your messages throughout, you've been the glue holding us together as the edges frayed amid the madness. Now if you'll excuse me, it's time for us Brits to raise a toast to Andy Murray and Fred Perry. British sporting legends both.
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