home jobs contact us
Our Clients:
Browse by Sport
Find us on ASAP sports on Facebook ASAP sports on Twitter
ASAP Sports RSS Subscribe to RSS
Click to go to
ASAP Sports e-Brochure View our


January 15, 2008

Tommy Haas

GREG SHARKO: Good afternoon. Thanks for joining us for today's conference call with Tommy has, who joins us from Florida.
Last season Tommy finished No. 12 in the ATP rankings, winning his 11th career ATP title in Memphis. He also advanced to the quarterfinals or better in two Grand Slam tournaments in the same year for the first time in his career, reaching the semifinals at the Australian Open and the quarterfinals at the US Open.
Tommy will be making his fifth appearance in San Jose, the first since reaching the semifinals three years ago. He was also a quarterfinalist in 1998 and 2001.
Before we get started, I want to turn it over to tournament director Bill Rapp, who has a few words.
BILL RAPP: Thanks, Shark. By the way, thanks to all of you that have joined the call. Appreciate you taking the time out of your busy day to talk with Tommy and for your coverage of our event, the SAP Open in San Jose.
Tommy, thank you very much for joining us. Disappointing you will not be in the Australian Open, but I do know you had an incredible run there last year. If you want to talk a little about how you played at the Aussie Open last year and also talk about here coming to play the likes of Blake, Roddick, González, some of those guys.
TOMMY HAAS: Sure. Hi to everyone. Yeah, last year at the Australian Open, it was a great tournament for me, reaching another semifinal after reaching the semis there in '99 and 2002.
I believe even last year I had my first top 10 win in a Grand Slam, which was kind of hard for me to believe, but against Nalbandian in the fourth round, that was my first top 10 player win in a Grand Slam, and I backed it right after that, reaching the semifinals after beating Davydenko for the first time. So beating two top 10 players back-to-back to get in the semis was great after losing to a guy named to Fernando González, who was basically just on a different planet that day that I played him, and I believe a few other guys were thinking the same thing until he got to the semis or actually the finals.
But it was a great tournament for me, a great start of the season, which unfortunately I couldn't back up this year due to another little shoulder problem that occurred to me in the middle of last year and forced me to have another shoulder surgery because I had a little nerve impingement. So therefore had the surgery done November 10th. I'm about to hit some tennis balls after we're done with this press conference to try to get ready for my next tournament, and obviously be in San Jose, as well.
GREG SHARKO: We'll open up the call for questions.

Q. Tommy, could you go back to the Davis Cup semifinal and tell me if you think you were poisoned.
TOMMY HAAS: Well, as far as that goes, I mean, you know, any time that a player has a chance, especially after playing almost 10 years in Davis Cup, and you know that your team got you to a 2-1 lead, and you cannot walk out there on a Sunday to try to finish the opponents off and get to your first Davis Cup final, you know I was feeling pretty much like crap.
That night, from Saturday night to Sunday night, I was basically spending seven out of the nine hours in the bathroom, not knowing what's going on with me, thinking that maybe I got a big viral infection or some kind of bacteria that made me throw up and made me have diarrhea pretty much for the whole night.
But what do you do after such a thing? You try to recover. You have a busy schedule. You go to Bangkok, to the next tournament, which you're supposed to go to. You take two, three days easy. You don't really look back at it.
After I heard what my colleague and my friend told me, that he heard that I might have been poisoned, which was about six, seven weeks later, you go to a doctor to make sure you are first of all healthy and there's nothing in your system that shouldn't be in there. So I did that.
But the internist, the doctor told me basically it's not too far behind that you can actually figure out or find out that you were, in fact, poisoned. You know, that's unfortunate, I guess, for the whole situation. But they did find a big bacterial stomach virus in my intestines so I was on antibiotics for two weeks, very strong pills.
Do I believe they did something to me? I have no comment on that because there's not enough evidence, so this whole subject has basically died for me ever since.

Q. Tommy, obviously you've got the big 30 coming up. How do your goals change as you go along? With 30 coming, some of these injuries creeping up again, how do you approach your goals at the beginning of the year?
TOMMY HAAS: Well, you know, first of all, I had such a great year, last two years have been great, finishing 11th and 12th in the world. My goal was to finish in the top 10 if possible. I really had a good shot at it last year, but end of May I started having shoulder problems again, for the rest of the year. That was always a little bit of a problem. My shoulder has been giving me some problems the last years. I do a lot of rehab. I'm going to make sure that I'll be able to come back and play to my best ability.
If I can stay healthy and fit, you know, I feel like I have a really good game to still hang around a few years and do some damage at the tournaments that I want to do well in, obviously the big ones, the Grand Slams.
You know, just keeping healthy and fit is basically No. 1 thing, I mean, for every tennis player, for every athlete in that case. As soon as that comes in again, I'm just gonna be happy to be back out there and then set my goals from there.
The main goals are really, you know, trying to do well in the Grand Slams and trying to see if I cannot reach another semifinals.

Q. When you're headed into those Slams, you're still believing that you can win a variety of seven matches over two weeks and still have that slam as a goal as much as ever?
TOMMY HAAS: Yeah. You know, I still believe I have that in me. I don't know how my shoulder will hold up as soon as I come out there again. I won't start until it's fit. It's looking good right now and that's the main key.
You know, I've been, you know, playing really solid tennis the last two years and I really believe that I still have a good chance to fulfill my dream, and that is to make a Grand Slam final. You know, with a little bit of luck here or there, the right draw, being fit and healthy, I don't see why that can't happen. So these are the main reasons for me, why I'm still playing the game, to go after those goals.

Q. The shoulder injury, how long do you think it will take before you are 100% back and ready to make some challenges?
TOMMY HAAS: I don't really know. My plan is right now to be ready for Delray Beach, which I believe is looking very good. I'm obviously coming out to see you guys in San Jose. Like I said, if I'm fit and I'm playing a little bit of tennis, I feel like I'm gonna be right back. You know, I might need a little bit of match practice. But the game of tennis itself, you know, you're not going to lose that that quickly.
So the main importance for me right now is to stay in a good mental state and stay physically fit and make sure that the shoulder comes back strong where I can go out there and compete for two, three hours at a time. Once that happens, I come back, then I'll be looking -- first of all, I'm going to be happy to be out there because it's obviously what I love to do, playing my sport that has given me so much, and then we go from there.

Q. How much longer do you foresee yourself playing?
TOMMY HAAS: Oh, for as long as I'm healthy and I'm competing and having fun and obviously keep continuing to play the tournaments without having to play qualifying.
You know, you look up to people like Andre Agassi who played till they were 36 and were pretty successful in their early 30s. Even Pete Sampras, who won a Grand Slam at 32. I'm obviously looking up to these guys who had a lot of success throughout their whole career and also some great success in their beginning 30s. So that's motivating.
I think you see more and more people still playing some great tennis in the early age of 30. Plus I've had the 15 months' break with my two shoulder surgeries in '03 and '04. So I'm looking that I have at least maybe another year longer in me than other players.

Q. Tommy, are you looking forward to see Pete in an exhibition? Would you have interest in playing him?
TOMMY HAAS: He's coming to an exhibition in San Jose?

Q. The first night.
TOMMY HAAS: Cool. I didn't hear about that. You know, obviously Pete and I have been in touch the last I would say nine months or so since I'm dating somebody who lives in the L.A. area. We actually hit a few balls a little bit last year and kept in touch through the US Open.
You know, Pete's obviously a guy you look up to, you respect for what he's done, still obviously holding the Grand Slam record. It's nice to see him play some exhibitions with Roger and getting him back into the tennis world because he's such an icon in the tennis world. For us tennis players, somebody we really look up to. Having him around, having a chance to talk to him every now and again is obviously great.
Yeah, I look forward to seeing him there.

Q. How often were you able to hit with him out there in L.A.?
TOMMY HAAS: I hit with him I would say at least three or four times. I came out to his house a few times. I know a couple other players do that, too, every once in a while. It's like in every sport, I'm sure, like once I'm going to retire, tennis stays with you in your blood. It's a great game to stay in shape. To hit a few balls around, it's obviously fun. It's great. Obviously he can still hit the ball really nicely. He still has an unbelievable serve. So it makes sense to play with him every once in a while.

Q. You mentioned Pete Sampras. As Federer closes in on the Grand Slam record, I know you've had a chance to play against both those guys. Could you kind of compare them and give me your thoughts as Federer closes in on it.
TOMMY HAAS: Yeah, I mean, I'm pretty much going to have to go with what Andre Agassi said. I think he's right on the money when he compares those two. It's like when you're playing Pete and you're not playing maybe your best tennis, you're still going to lose a little tight, 6-4, 6-4. Pete is only going to break you once in each set. That one time is enough to win the match for him.
But if you're playing Roger, you're not playing that well, it looks like you're going to lose pretty much 6-1, 6-1 or maybe even get a bagel.
So comparing those two, I personally still think Pete has a better first and second serve almost to this day, if you can imagine that. Anything else besides that really, if it's footwork, which Pete also had great footwork, but I think the backhand, the forehand, it's just, you know, that much better than Pete. But Pete definitely goes down in my eyes as probably having the best serve, especially second serve, ever.
BILL RAPP: Tommy, just thinking about coming back to San Jose, I know I think it was 2005 you had a great run here. I think you played Roddick in the semis. Could you share with us, tell us maybe some of your most positive memories of playing here at the SAP Open.
TOMMY HAAS: Yeah, well, first of all, you just said it, that I first played there in '98, reaching the quarters. It's going to be 10 years since I made my first appearance there when I come there in just a matter of a few weeks. I think I played Michael Chang in the quarters, lost 6-4 in the third, which was one of my great memories playing there. It was in a night match in front of a lot of people. That was a lot of fun.
Yeah, I believe it was in 2005 where I had a pretty good run into the semifinals and had a pretty good match against Andy Roddick, who I think ended up winning the tournament. I was very pleased with the way I played there.
But also I have some other memories where, you know, I didn't play a match for about 15 months and I made my comeback in San Jose, where I lost to Vince Spadea also in a night match after Andre Agassi played. I think there was about 10,000 people watching Andre played, and maybe half of them wanted to watch the match. After a few months of playing on tour, playing in front of that amount of people, it was really nerve-racking.
I lost that match unfortunately, but it was a great experience for me to come back there and get that kind of respect. Yeah, come back and play again.
So, you know, it's a great tournament, it's a great event. Always it seems a lot of good players come and make a stop in San Jose to get a good start going into the year. I'm really excited to come out there.
BILL RAPP: I remember all of those matches clearly. The 10,000 people, I think about 9,000 stuck around.
BILL RAPP: We're thrilled to have you come back.
This morning I got a phone call from the folks putting on the event at Madison Square Garden, March 10, Federer versus Sampras match. The players have asked to have the court there, the Premiere court, be identical to the court we use here. With that in mind, tell us about the court here. What is it like playing on the court here?
TOMMY HAAS: Well, it is a little different. It takes a little bit of time I think to kind of get used to that court. I think the whole surroundings in that stadium, it makes it just so nice where you don't really think about it that much. But I feel that court is similar to a little bit of a Rebound Ace court in my eyes where you feel like your body is not taking such a beating.
You know, you can play fast, like an Andy Roddick, and get a few easy service games going, but at the same time if you play defense from the baseline, it's not that fast where somebody will power you off the court. So I think it's fair for both serve-and-volley guys or people that are very powerful. At the same time if you are a guy who likes to hang around the baseline and moves well, you're going to have some great rallies and points. I think in the past, you've had some unbelievable matches.
BILL RAPP: Thanks, Tommy.

Q. How have you managed to come back from adversity so many times during your career? How disappointing has it been to fall just short of No. 1, a Grand Slam final, the Olympic gold medal?
TOMMY HAAS: You know, to be honest, sometimes things happen in life that come your way where you really don't have much of a choice. You just have to really deal with them. Trust me, at times it has been very tough to stay mentally strong and ask yourself why is it still happening, why again, why again? Having this being my third surgery on my shoulder, it's obviously not very easy, especially when you're at your peak at age 23, 24, playing some of your best tennis throughout that time, then to go out of the sport for about 15 months, it's tough.
But I love the sport. It's what I was doing since I was a young boy. I'm basically living my dream. I'm still going to follow my dream. That's what keeps me going. I have people in my life, if it's my family or friends, people I surround myself with, so I'm enjoying my life. I'm a happy guy. I think that has a lot to do with it as well. If you keep that all in perspective and you realize that everything is pretty good, then you deal with it.
If you work hard, I feel like it always pays off as well. It's proven to me that it has pretty much paid off. As a kid I always said I wanted to win a Grand Slam or reach the top five in the world or play Davis Cup for Germany. A lot of those things that I've dreamt about have become reality. Gold medal, silver medal, or bronze medal, at that time, I didn't really care about it too much, and I gave it my best in Sydney at that time. I lost a tight match there against Kafelnikov. But I'm really happy to have a silver medal in my safe. I don't have that worry anymore like Roger Federer really wanting to win a medal. In Peking coming up this summer, I'm really happy.

Q. How important is schedule management these days? You look at a guy like Nadal, see how he gets pretty beat up towards the end of the year. Do you look different at the schedule than when you were first starting out?
TOMMY HAAS: Yeah, I mean, it is really tough with the schedule because you have the possibility to play pretty much week after week. What do you do? You think about the ranking. You think about the prize money. When you're younger, you want to play. You're hungry to climb up in the rankings. Obviously if you can do it ideal and know you're going to do pretty much well in all the big tournaments, in the Masters Series, maybe play a few here and there to keep your ranking where you kind of like it to be, it makes it nice if you can plan a schedule that's not so tough. Like Federer, for instance, Agassi used to do, or Pete Sampras used to do. We're talking about these guys that used to win a slam a year or maybe more. They're doing really well. If that's not the case, you still want to try to fulfill your own goals and what are your own goals, what does your coach think.
It's really tough in that sport because you don't just say, Okay, everybody is going to play 16 tournaments a year or 20, you make a ranking out of that. If you want to play 18 tournaments, the guy plays 30, he might be ahead of you at the end of the year, you might kind of wonder why that guy is in front of you at the end of the year. So there's so many possibilities you can think of.
Rafael Nadal obviously has a very aggressive, very powerful hard court game. The guy is running left and right after every ball. He's sliding on the hard courts. He's obviously having trouble with his knees, he's still quite young with that. We'll see how he'll end up the next two, three years with that. He might just go through with it for the next six, eight years and be fine, but you just never know. He might also change some things in his schedule this year. We'll just have to wait and see.
GREG SHARKO: We appreciate everybody's time. Tommy, we wish you all the best in your preparations for the 2008 season and another fine year that I'm sure you're ready to have. So, again, thank you, everyone.
BILL RAPP: Tommy, thanks again. I just wanted to let everybody know Wednesday night, February 20, 7 p.m., Roddick will play his first match here in San Jose, followed by Tommy playing his first-round match.
GREG SHARKO: Thank you.

End of FastScripts
About ASAP SportsFastScripts ArchiveRecent InterviewsCaptioningUpcoming EventsContact Us
FastScripts | Events Covered | Our Clients | Other Services | ASAP in the News | Site Map | Job Opportunities | Links
ASAP Sports, Inc. | T: 1.212 385 0297