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March 16, 2008

Tommy Haas


THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. There's an expression in English that rumors of my demise were greatly exaggerated, or the rumors of somebody's demise were greatly exaggerated. There have been rumors about you and shoulder and maybe things looked pretty bad.
TOMMY HAAS: Was there another question, or...

Q. Anyway, you are obviously not about to leave the game.
TOMMY HAAS: Yeah, I mean, you know, when you play a match like today and everything is going pretty well and you're playing some of the tennis that you were taught and that you know you can play against a great champion and competitor like Andy Roddick, who's having a great beginning of this year, you don't think about those things.
But most of you guys and most of the people that follow the sport don't really know what's going on behind the scenes, and that's really the part where a lot of times you really do think about, Am I going to continue? Is this the right thing?
Because it's a lot of struggle, a lot of determination. You know, every time you have surgery for the third time on your shoulder, which is basically probably one of the most important things in this game, it's going to be tough.
But, you know, until you really are stepped on a hundred times and you really fall very far behind in the ranking and can't win any matches anymore, then you might consider it.
But really, on a day like today when everything clicks, it's going to be pretty hard to think about that. Now you just kind of hope that your shoulder stays in good position and maintain the things that you need to do and go from there.
Just compete hard and play and enjoy the game, which that's really the reason today when you go out there playing a top American player, this is why, you know, you train hard and you enjoy these moments a lot, so that's obviously great.

Q. What do you do to make sure the shoulder stays in as good of condition as possible?
TOMMY HAAS: Maintain, do the right rehab, have the right people around you, treat it the right way. That's really all you can do, and hope it doesn't take too much of a beating when you play a lot of matches. In the end you want to play a lot of matches. That means you're doing well.
So just got to go from there and kind of live day by day, week by week.

Q. You were hitting to his backhand quite a bit. It's obviously his weaker wing. He's obviously made lot of progress over the last 18 months, two years off that wing. Can you talk about the improvements he's made on that side?
TOMMY HAAS: Real improvements on his backhand or his game, I really don't see too much. He's -- I think he's got still the best serve in the game. When his first serve is coming at you 135 and 140 miles an hour and has placement on it, I don't think could Karlovic or Isner's serve can compete with that, in my opinion.
I think he's just a great competitor. He really makes you win every point. I think for some reason the matchup with my game against his really matches good. Today was one of the matches where I won the majority of the important points. When I broke him a couple times today, you know, I really played some great points, you know, backhand and forehand passing shots and forehand lobs, and that was really the only difference today.

Q. How did the new coaching arrangement come about, and what are you hoping to get out of it?
TOMMY HAAS: I haven't had a coach since the US Open after having two great years with Thomas Hogstedt. We parted ways. Since that time already I've had problems with the shoulder, so we didn't look into having a coach because I knew down the road I'd probably have to have surgery end of the year.
Beginning of this year I didn't really know when I would start to play some good tennis, so I didn't really think I needed a coach until I felt like I might be ready again to compete and play hard.
There was really only a few options that I looked at a coach and working with Dean Goldfine. It's typical the first time you play you play somebody he used to coach for quite a while. It's going to work out fine, I think. He has a lot of experience. He's a guy that I respect who he has coached and with the success that he's had. Seems like a very nice guy, which is important. We'll see how it goes.

Q. Will he travel full time?
TOMMY HAAS: As much as he can. He's got a family and two kids, so we're going to try to work and play the big tournaments together and go from there.

Q. When somebody like Andy starts throwing racquets and talking to themself and stuff, does that kind of go into your head as, you know, you're into his head now or...
TOMMY HAAS: You know, it's tricky, because sometimes these situations, you know, he gets the crowd involved a little bit. He starts throwing the racquets, maybe working the crowd that he might need a little help.
But he's such a competitor that it's not going to throw him off really. So you have to just maintain your own focus and keep your game plan going. Another thing for me that was very important today was that actually my father, you know, obviously he's my biggest fan, but the second biggest fan of his right now is actually Andy Roddick.
So he was in Dubai two weeks ago and he actually said -- he picked Andy Roddick to win Dubai and he did, so it was very important for me today to make sure that, you know, I can maybe beat Andy today. I'll have a talk with him later.

Q. In most countries now, they're working really hard to discover juniors who are going to get to the top. Does Germany have an aggressive program for young players coming up?
TOMMY HAAS: They have a lot of programs there, but if they're the right ones, sometimes, you know, you probably have to put a big question mark behind that. There's a lot of politics, a lot of different things.
If you have the right team around you and people who have some kind of clue, then I think it doesn't matter where you're from, then I think it's possible in any country if you have the right surroundings. I really don't know.

Q. Sounds like you kind of answered this, but obviously Andy Roddick is an emotional player when he gets on the court. Would you say he's a little bit easier to rattle mentally than maybe some of the top guys, like Roger Federer?
TOMMY HAAS: Yeah, I mean, thank God everybody has a different personality, otherwise it would be quite boring out there. Personally, I like to see emotions myself. It's fun. I actually watch him play as well. There's going to be emotions, fighting spurts or talk with the crowd or whatever.
If it's the racquet throwing or the ball hitting out of the stadium, that's sometimes what you want to see. You want to see emotions. Somebody's out there competing hard. That's what it's all about. So unless you are very calm like only very few players, and somebody like Roger who is so calm because, you know, he really hasn't been -- for what should he freak out? The guy's been dominating us for last three or four years. (laughter.) It's a joke.
So, you know it doesn't matter. We're all kind of at a level now where, you know, it's really going to be a few points here and there that make a big difference. A shot here and there. You try and regain your focus.

Q. Sounds like we shouldn't ask you if you think Roger is vulnerable since he's actually lost two matches in a row?
TOMMY HAAS: You guys are tough. You read the newspapers, and sometimes you have to just put the papers aside. The guy apparently had a little bit of a sickness. He reached the semifinals, which for probably 80% of the players out there is like a dream come true if you reach the semis of a Slam.
And then he hasn't played in a while and he loses first round to a good player, Andy Murray, in a tight match in Dubai. The big tournaments are coming up, and obviously these two coming up are pretty big. We'll see. I'm sure he's in good shape. If he gets into a groove a little bit he's going to be the player to beat still.
But we still might see a little bit vulnerability because the other guys are hungry. Somebody like a Djokovic or Nadal or even Andy, they're all going to try pushing him as much as they can. This might be the year where you see him lose a little bit more, but he's still the favorite in the big tournaments.

Q. What exactly was the surgery they had to do in November?
TOMMY HAAS: It was a nerve decompression.

Q. What did they do exactly?
TOMMY HAAS: There's a tendon that goes above the nerve. They cut it so the nerve has more breathing room and maybe rebuilds itself to feed the muscle, because you start getting atrophy in your muscles. That means you can't do any strength work and you lose your strength, and that basically wouldn't be too good if you're holding a racquet.

Q. Did they put the tendon back together after?
TOMMY HAAS: No, they don't. Doesn't matter. The tendons above the nerve are not really important.

Q. You practiced with Roger on Wednesday.

Q. Was that any help to you when you're trying to come back and play against a guy that good?
TOMMY HAAS: Yeah, it's always good. You focus a little bit more. It's tough trying to compete against him even in practice, and, you know, you're just more alert. It's always fun, you know, going out every once in a while. Playing with each other is fun.
Hopefully with some of these guys you're still playing 15, 20, 30 years and see who's better.

Q. Where was the procedure done on your shoulder?
TOMMY HAAS: What's that? Where?

Q. Where did you have the operation?
TOMMY HAAS: In New York again. The same doctor.

Q. Since you've gone through this a couple of times, do you sort of think, I've done this. I've come back from the previous two. Do you start to worry, saying, This is the third one. What am I going to have to do here?
TOMMY HAAS: Yeah, we can talk for a while, but, you know, you do this and you try to come back, and that's really all. You hope your shoulder doesn't give you too much other problem when you're out there competing and playing. It's still not there where it needs to be, but it's definitely getting better. Now it just needs to be maintained that way.

Q. Do you have any goals for this year? I mean, granted, it's taken you a while to get back.
TOMMY HAAS: Main goal is really to stay healthy and have a good shoulder. If that's the case and I can go out there and compete, then I'm quite happy. The rest will take care of itself.

Q. Since November when you actually sort of felt that were going to be able to play at a good level again, when did it click?
TOMMY HAAS: That, I don't know. Played few weeks ago. Felt pretty good when I was playing in Memphis, even San Jose I didn't play that bad. But then sometimes just the shoulder, if I play a third set, kind of left me. I wasn't going as quick through the strokes as I would like to.
But even Dubai I played all right. I just couldn't really put the dots together yet. Sometimes you overdo it and you start throwing your body, you start throwing your legs, and you have different motions, you compensate with your elbow. You do a lot of crazy things that you actually don't realize, and it takes time. But now it's starting to come back.

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