Roger Federer isn’t the only former Top 5 player launching a major comeback at the Australian Open. Federer’s long-time friend and sometime inspiration is returning in Melbourne, too.
Former world No. 2 Tommy Haas is Down Under poised to play his first Australian Open since he retired from the 2014 first-round.
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The 38-year-old German is taking time out from his day job as Indian Wells’ Tournament Director to return to his most successful Slam.
Haas plans to use his protected ranking to play Melbourne.
The three-time Australian Open semifinalist fell in three sets to Jerzy Janowicz in the Kooyong Classic exhibition match. That was Haas’ first competitive match since October, 2015, when he lost to 10th-ranked Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, 6-3, 6-7 (3), 6-4, in the opening round of Vienna.
Last April, Haas underwent the ninth surgery of his 20-year career to repair a torn ligament in his right foot that pained him when jogging or running. That procedure followed various operations on his shoulder, elbow, ankle and hip. Shortly after that surgery, Haas said he was determined to make another comeback and ultimately walk away from the sport on his terms.
“I know that there's a chance that I might not come back from this,” Haas told ATP World Tour.com. “I know it will be a very, very hard task, but there's no doubt in my mind I'm certainly going to try.”
When Haas’ friend and sometime practice partner Federer returned to tennis last spring following knee surgery, the 17-time Grand Slam champion cited Haas as an inspiration returned from multiple injury breaks recharged.
"I do believe that whatever rest it is—maybe from injury, maybe from just a training block or a vacation—it all ends up somewhere in a canister where you can pull from it," Federer told the media at the Monte Carlo Rolex Masters. "You see it with Tommy Haas for instance. He's been injured for almost three years or more of his career, yet he's still on tour. Because he's still mentally fresh. He loves it."
Revisit a few of our favorite Haas Melbourne moments here.
Sporting the backward baseball cap he wore in those days, Haas summoned brilliance beating Federer, 7-6 (3), 4-6, 3-6, 6-4, 8-6 in the 2002 round of 16. Haas went on to defeat former No. 1 Marcelo Rios before coming up short in five sets against Marat Safin in the semifinals.
In the 2006 round of 16, Haas fought back from two sets down pushing Federer to five sets before bowing to the world No. 1
One year later, Haas gave us one of the most intense changeover soliloquies in recent Australian Open history first berating himself before exhorting himself to elevate the intensity of his fight.
A spirited Haas returned to the court and recovered from two sets to one down defeating world No. 3 Nikolay Davydenko in a spirited 6-3, 2-6, 1-6, 6-1, 7-5 triumph to advance to his third Australian Open final.
Photo credit: Australian Open Facebook