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August 9, 1999

Tommy Haas


Q. Seemed like a pretty good performance?

TOMMY HAAS: Coming Montreal last week, I took the weekend off. I went to visit a friend and then came back here yesterday; so I didn't have much time to prepare. I didn't feel like I needed to, but obviously, it is always different when you play different tournament. The balls are different. The court is a little slower. Plus, we know each other from Bollittieri's. We both trained there; so in the beginning it was kind of -- both a little bit shaky, trying to see what the other guy does and I had problems with my attention. We both, I think, were missing a lot of balls at the beginning, but then after the first set, I felt more confident and my stroke, I started to feel it. Yeah, it was pretty good. I'm happy that I am in the second round.

Q. Looked like you got more power in the second set?

TOMMY HAAS: Little bit. Like I said, in my second set I got my confidence and play the game I usually play, and it's more risky and more powerful. So I'm pleased the second set, yeah.

Q. Can you talk about the year you're having? You've been on a nice roll all the way through January.

TOMMY HAAS: Yeah, I think the break did me good last year in December. And started off the year really well. Switched rackets. Finals in Auckland; obviously, Australian Open; my first title in Memphis. So I played pretty well through, and a little bit unlucky in Wimbledon in the third round. But I'm playing more consistent, I think, this year, and just a couple weeks back, I lost in Stuttgart. Matches I could have won, but that's tennis. Just trying to play every week -- play as much as good as I can. Sometimes I have a little bit of problems mentally to stay focused. It's not always so easy traveling all the time. But, you know, with experience, I think the better you get of picking the tournaments that you want to play and really focus and really go for them all the way, that's just another part of learning for me and experience. But so far, I'm very happy with the year I've had, and hopefully, I can finish up the year like that.

Q. Any one tournament or match that kind of helped get you over that hump?

TOMMY HAAS: I think Australian open was the big boost for me. Obviously Grand Slams, you want to play well. Was my first time I went to the semifinals. I had a good match against Kafelnikov. I just think at that time he was too, too strong. I wasn't good enough at that time to beat him. I think that gave me a lot of confidence. And few weeks later. I won my first title in, Memphis which was important because I've been to four or five finals now and only one won. I think the Australian Open helps. I think the main goal for everybody in his career is to win a Grand Slam. I think that's the main purpose -- for many players, the purpose to play tennis, I think, is to win some of those big tournaments one day.

Q. When you started out, did you envision yourself moving up as quickly as being the type of player that you are, being in the Top 50, being a Top-20 player? What kind of goals did you have?

TOMMY HAAS: I mean, obviously, my main goal was to win a Grand Slam and to reach a Top-10 in my whole career. I don't know what age or not. Obviously, I'm happy that I'm young and I have an opportunity to maybe make it. Even if I were to happen to have a bad accident now and stay out of it for three years, I can still come back at 25 and 26. You can still play your best tennis at that time. Hopefully, this won't happen, but I'm just going to try to do my best. Obviously, I didn't expect now to be in the Top 15. I don't really -- it doesn't matter for me right now. Actually, it doesn't make a big difference if I was 30 the world or 15 or No. 9. I'm still trying to improve. I think there's a lot of things I can do better. I still need to know exactly which tournaments I need to play throughout the year; how many I need to play. I need to get physically stronger to feel like I'm a Top-10 player, and I don't know if I feel that way yet. But so far, the year has been going well.

Q. When you talk about injury, are you talking about your ankle?

TOMMY HAAS: A long time ago. That was the beginning of my career, obviously. I never had a bad injury. And then both my ankles, I had to have surgery. So maybe it was a good step, also, for me to realize that to be healthy is probably the most important thing, and just to play the game and have fun.

Q. Both of them were broken playing?

TOMMY HAAS: Ligaments, yeah. Like three ligaments, and I pulled two of them. That's why it required surgery.

Q. Were you practicing or in a match?

TOMMY HAAS: No. They were in practice, actually. One in practice and one playing basketball.

Q. Do you play basketball any more?

TOMMY HAAS: Yeah, I do, actually. I started off this year playing more and more. And I lost my coach, and I couldn't live with that, and he's not moving really well. So I couldn't allow myself to lose to him, and now I beat him pretty easy.

Q. It says in your bio if you weren't playing tennis, you'd like to be a pop singer?

TOMMY HAAS: I know it says it in there. I didn't mean me, myself, to be a pop singer or something. I said it's nice to perform in front of people because people always ask if you have pressure going out there. People watch, you know, maybe 10,000 people in Germany for Davis Cup. I said: No, I like it. I like when people are there. It's good to show nice tennis. I think actually that's what you play for. I don't train 15 years for nothing, and then I go play a match against Pete Sampras; and what, three people are watching; what is this. I like when it's crowded. I say I can imagine it must be nice if you are like a pop singer maybe Barry Gibb, the Bee Gees; there's how many thousands of people and people cheer you on. I think it's a nice feeling.

Q. But you can't -- you would like to be a pop singer?

TOMMY HAAS: I could imagine it. Maybe in my dream sometimes, maybe I could. But I don't think I have a voice to be one.

Q. How did you get up in the Blue Angels?

TOMMY HAAS: My ex-coach, Nick Bollettieri, flew me one time. He has a good connection with them. And somehow or another, he said if I wanted to fly with the Blue Angels. And I didn't hesitate and said: Yes, of course. I think it's been a year and a half now, Palm Springs, two years ago. I went up. And no question: Most unbelievable thing I've ever done. I speed. I like excitement. I like taking risks. I think that was one of the greatest moments I think, so far.

Q. How did you feel when you were done?

TOMMY HAAS: I was pretty exhausted, yeah. I needed a good day to recover from this actually. It was only 45 minutes, but when you go seven and a half Gs and you almost blackout, it's kind of tough. I was happy that I did everything in the plane. It felt pretty good.

Q. Did you feel more tired than if you'd played a match?

TOMMY HAAS: It depends what kind of match. I've played matches where I was really tired, like Davis Cup. Mentally, that makes you tired pretty much but pretty similar to that one. You can't compare. I'm not used to flying all the time with those things, but it's very tiring.

Q. (Inaudible.)

TOMMY HAAS: I would like to see the show. I haven't seen the show yet. But always with traveling, I never have the opportunity being away. But if I have a chance and they are there, I would love to go.

Q. How difficult is the focus and the pressure of a German athlete of stature? Has that been an issue for you?

TOMMY HAAS: German country was very spoiled with Becker and Steffi. They won almost everything. Steffi Graf, being No. 1 in the world for such a long time, obviously the Germans they expect good tennis players. And with me and Keifer now, two young players if the Top-20, obviously, you know, we are trying our best. But we still play for ourselves and do the best we can. But there's really no pressure. You try to do your best. When you play for your country, like in Davis Cup. You try to do your best and try to win. Maybe one day one of us is going to be in the Top 10, and that's good also. We've shown good matches. We played pretty consistent, both of us, during this year. And even like Schuttler is coming along pretty well, and hopefully some good juniors coming up, too.

Q. (Inaudible)?

TOMMY HAAS: I think me and Kiefer are right behind each other, 15 and 17 in the world, this week. Like I say, see what happens at the end of this year. We both have already gained a lot of points this year. If we both keep on playing well, we might have a chance to beat both in the Top 10. What else can you ask for? Obviously, that's a big achievement. You also have to remember he's only 22 and I'm only 21. Hopefully, we have a long career ahead of us. And Germany is doing just fine.

Q. Could you talk about some of the thing you admire about Boris Becker?

TOMMY HAAS: I admired his game, obviously. He was one of the reasons why I wanted to become a professional tennis player. When I was seven years old, I watched him in Wimbledon, and that was one of my goals. And I like him as a person. He's a nice guy.

Q. Can you talk about the impact of your coaches on your career?

TOMMY HAAS: Yeah, obviously when I was 11, I went to Nick Bollettieri. Before it was my father who actually taught me how to play tennis and still checks everything out. And Nick was a big, important part of my life. He's a great motivator. He knows a lot about the game. He helped me out a lot. And Red, he's very good on the road. Takes care pretty much of everything outside of tennis, and I think that's important. But if you have, he needs to be a buddy and understand other things. I get along with him really well.

Q. Is he no longer working with you, Red?

TOMMY HAAS: Well, he's not traveling as much as anymore. He's getting older also. When I go down to the academy, he comes on the courts and trains with me.

Q. Do you still live in Brandenton?

TOMMY HAAS: I do. I have a place there.

Q. European countries, do they think differently of their stars when they move out of the country? Is that a problem ever?

TOMMY HAAS: I don't think so much. I'm not so many times in Germany. I'm not so much in Bradenton. I have a place also in Austria which is a very nice place. Most of the time, we travel anyway. It's very hard if you're an athlete and you're trying to make a living. Obviously, you only have a chance until maybe 30 or 35 years old. After that, the tennis career is finished. If you pay taxes in Germany, it's kind of tough, after 50 or 60 percent; so it's quite a lot. Obviously, that's one of the main reasons why people go to different countries and other countries in Europe. Most of the people go to Monte Carlo. Some of the people go to Florida. You have to feel comfortable where you live, because that's when have your off time. You need to go to places where you can really recover and get your mind free again. That's the most important part.

Q. Can you talk about the differences between Red and Nick?

TOMMY HAAS: Obviously, Nick is much more experienced. He's develops the players. Red is more of a traveling coach who takes care of all the other things. He gets me the practice partners that I need and he prepares me before the match. Nick is like if you have a little kid and you need to see if he's going to make it one day, you take him to Nick. And he will probably tell you if he has a chance or not; so that's the difference.

Q. Was he tough on you?

TOMMY HAAS: No. A lot of people always say he's a very hard trainer and stuff like this. But I think it's more the people that come there for two or three weeks, a short time they really train there. They want to show like it's really hard training camp. But if you live there for many years, you have that kind of mentality to be a professional. You have kind of a schedule where you train an hour or two a day, a little bit of physical training and that continues not just -- not just for three weeks. It's just very professionally done.

Q. How much difference is it more you now being like in a match like today? You're not the younger guy. You're not the up-and-coming guy. You're like the favorite, and he's who you used to be, just recently, I guess. How much different is that for you?

TOMMY HAAS: I still feel like I'm a young guy. Obviously, playing against Malisse, it's tough for him. He gets a wild card here. You want to try to win a couple rounds, because you think you've earned the wild card. So it's probably tough for him to play me, also, because I'm still young and I'm still actually trying to improve my game also. Like I say, he's a player that has a good future ahead of him if he keeps working hard. He's a very talented player. And he doesn't really care much, I think, from what I know him, but he's got great strokes. If he gets his mind together and everything, I think he has a very good future. It just all depends on him. But yeah, for me the time went by so fast. Two or three years ago, I used to get a wild card here and I think lost in the second round one time, and last year, I think I lost in the third round. I can't believe it's actually my third or fourth year here. It just went so quick.

Q. When you look at a major like the Open and look to win a couple majors, do you just say: If I could get to the quarterfinals, then I could get to the semifinals?

TOMMY HAAS: You say a couple of players, but a lot of players would be happy to just have one, one of those majors. Obviously, if you're in the quarterfinals or semis, you're obviously pretty happy. That's obviously tough to do. I think just majors you need two good weeks to play the best tennis of your life. And just continue to the end is probably the toughest thing to do is three out of five sets. You get tired after a while. And those people who win the guy Grand Slams really know how to play the game and that reason, they are in the Top 5 in the world. If you look at Sampras and Agassi and stuff like this, they just dominate the game for the last ten years. But obviously, for me right now is still a learning experience. If I reach the quarterfinals, I'll be more than happy. And just improve my ranking and improving my game, learning. I've still got a lot to learn; so it will be good.

Q. What's your primary interest outside of tennis? Is it basketball or flying?

TOMMY HAAS: There's a lot of other interests. Obviously, you have a family. Maybe you have a girlfriend. A lot of things you think about, not always tennis, obviously. I like cars, to drive fast and stuff like this. Think where I'm going to live in my future. A lot of things I think about.

Q. What about wrestling?

TOMMY HAAS: I used to never like it. My coach is a freak about it. He took me once and actually I like it, too. Maybe we are going to go to Madison Square Garden two days before it starts in New York. It's a good show to get your mind off a little bit. And to see other people perform; it's fun.

Q. (Inaudible)?

TOMMY HAAS: I don't know. That's a question I will never be able to answer, I guess because I haven't experienced it. I thought this is where I want to go and the people behind me, I trust them and just see where I go from there. Obviously, my father helped me a lot and Nick Bollettieri people behind me that I always trusted. That's the most important thing. But you always have to believe in yourself and feel good about yourself. Otherwise, you don't have a chance, I don't think.

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