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INTERVIEWS

March 14, 2007

T. HAAS/F. Gonzalez

6-3, 6-2

An interview with:

TOMMY HAAS


THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. You played one of the most spectacular shot makers in the game today and you forced him backwards. That's got to feel pretty good?
TOMMY HAAS: Yeah, thanks. No, obviously I do. You know, I thought going into the Australian Open semifinal match, I was feeling quite well myself. And, you know, it was just one of those days where, you know, you kind of feel like it's a bad nightmare in that match.
You know, he was hitting 45 winners and I think three unforced errors the whole match. You're looking maybe to get to a Grand Slam final, which is a dream for every tennis player, so it kind of sets, you know, in my stomach for a while. And, you know, you just question yourself, what I did wrong or what I could have done differently. And, you know, there was nothing really I could have done differently that day.
I'm really looking forward to this revenge. When I saw the draw, you never really look ahead, but there was a possibility we might meet up in the Round of 16, got fired up already for it, you know, after beating Gabashvili, really, and I heard he was beating Soderling. So me and my coach obviously thought about it, how to play and everything, seemed to go pretty well.

Q. How did you play?
TOMMY HAAS: Oh, yeah, I'm not going to go through too many details, but the way I played tonight, I think was try to, at least, go through my service games easier, you know, try to get some free points on my serve, which I thought I can at the right time. So I got them at the right times, not try to let him dictate play, you know, maybe actually that I was a little more aggressive or come in at the right time.
And, yeah, and try to win the big points, which is so often so important in every match.

Q. Tommy, compared to the rest of your career, how well are you playing at the moment?
TOMMY HAAS: I mean, I don't know. I can look at tapes four years ago when I was No. 2 in the world and say that was some great tennis that I played. I think every year, everybody's improving and getting in better shape. You have to try to keep up, and, you know, bring your game up to another level, try also to get physically onto a different level, otherwise you cannot compete.
You know, there's a lot of young guys coming up, pushing everybody, and obviously Federer has set up the bar so high where you see a complete player, maybe the completest player ever, where you're in top shape and you hit every shot and you show your coolness and you win the important points. So you kind of, you know, you look at that, and that's where you kind of -- where everybody wants to get to.

Q. You obviously got and Andy Murray next a different kind of match for you.
TOMMY HAAS: Mm-hmm.

Q. What are your thoughts about playing him?
TOMMY HAAS: It's always difficult to play somebody I've never played before. Obviously I've seen him play. He's a tricky player, you know. He walks around the court like he can't go on anymore after like two points and touches himself on the back or the leg, you think he's going to retire any second. But at the same time, he moves around the court pretty well, almost like as good as anyone out there, I think. He's got some fantastic hands, great touch, and he competes hard, even though he let's his emotions out, as well, which I kind of like.
And sometimes, actually, I see myself a little bit in him sometimes, you know, talking to his coach, you know, yelling a couple of negative words towards the box, which it's good to see I'm not the only one.
You know, he competes and he wants to win and, you know, he knows where the ball is coming to most of the time. But, you know, I think I'm just going to have to play my game, be aggressive as well. I think as you saw, Davydenko was trying to be aggressive, didn't know when to come in at the right time. That's really not Davydenko's games, so we'll see. We'll see how Murray plays against me. But like I said, it's always tricky when you play for the first time.

Q. Have you practiced with him?
TOMMY HAAS: I have. Him and Brad Gilbert have been spending time at Bollettieri's Tennis Academy, I think, the past two Decembers, ever since they hooked up.
But practice is practice, you know. It's not the same. We talk more about whatever then really focusing on the practice. So, you know, this will be a big match for both of us, trying to get to the semifinals and should be a good match.

Q. Tommy, was Gonzalez a good fighter tonight?
TOMMY HAAS: I think he was trying to come back and fight. You know, I just don't think that -- he probably needed to have a little bit of a run here. Every once in a while he was hitting, you know, some crazy good shots, but then again he would make an unforced error or was forced to make an unforced error.
So he needed to probably get a break back in the second to maybe compete a little bit harder . Obviously when I got the early break in the second set, that gave me a lot of confidence.

Q. Do you ever feel you've been a forgotten guy in and among the top guys in the mix. You got up as high as No. 2. Obviously had some serious problems with personal stuff and injury and stuff. You know, do you feel like you're owed some payback or your day is still to come?
TOMMY HAAS: Not really. Everybody has a different career. You know, some guys go out there and have no injuries for 15 years and play and have, you know, everything going for them in some ways.
You know, I'm not really, you know, regretful that I had two shoulders surgeries at my peak time was gone for a long time and basically had to start from zero. You know, I'm the oldest guy in the top 10, but I still feel like I've, you know, a few good years left where I can probably play some of my best tennis, maybe because I didn't play for 15 months because of two shoulder surgeries.
So, you know, I kind of like it quiet anyway, to be honest. I'm not the guy that needs to be in the limelight or needs to be like, you know, wherever, out in the newspapers and in the front pages. I don't appreciate that too much.
And, you know, I just go about my business. I'm back in the top 10, which was one of my main goals to try to do after the surgery. I didn't think it was maybe possible, because at the beginning when I came back, it looked like I couldn't really serve as hard as I wanted to anymore. But slowly, you know, I've gotten better and, you know, that was one of my main goals, and I achieved it. So I'm pretty happy.
So everything right now for me is like if I'm staying healthy and compete hard and play hard and I feel like I'm going to be a tough opponent to beat, I'm happy for that.

Q. Do you feel like you're on an a bit of an emotional (indiscernible). Davis Cup, good performance there, good performance in Australia. Do you feel energized about the way the year has shaped up for you?
TOMMY HAAS: Yeah, so far the best beginning of the year that I've ever had. And, you know, that's obviously great because, you know, every time you go out in the court, you feel good, you feel like you're tough to beat. That's a feeling you want to have. Sometimes you can maybe not feel the backhand as well or you're not happy with some things, you struggle with those things more than actually trying to focus on the match.
So, you know, Davis Cup was obviously very big, gave me a lot of confidence, as well, because I put a lot of pressure on myself trying to win that tie. Because we really haven't had that much success in Davis Cup and the Germans really wanted to see us beating Croatia, which is obviously one of the toughest teams with two top 10 players at the time. And, you know, for us to win there was huge. And that gave us, Germany a good lift again in tennis.
And with me being back in the top 10, you know, that's, the Germans were very blessed Graf and Becker. It's going to be tough to fill their shoes. We've had some other good successful players.

Q. Is that your team now in the sense that the U.S. team is pretty much Andy's team?
TOMMY HAAS: Yeah, in some ways. I just find it hard to really say it's my team. I mean, in some ways, we all know that, but at the end of the day, we are a team and we try to get three points and that's really all that matters. And now we will focus on Belgium, which is a tough task, you know, in Belgium on heavy clay, which is not the Germans' favorite surface, obviously.
But we're going to go there with pride and I think if we play well, we have a good chance.

Q. Back to your match against Murray, I did notice that Davydenko maybe left a lot of opportunities to come to the net. You being a more accomplished volleyer, in my opinion, than Davydenko, do you feel you're going to come in?
TOMMY HAAS: Well, I'm certainly going to have to try. I think sometimes Andy's game applies that. You know, he makes it up with the slice. A lot of times you'll see him dink a slice in the middle court and sort of say, come in, come on, come in, I want to pass you.
He has a lot of touch and feel for it. So, you know, we'll see how he plays against me, if he will have the same tactic or might play a little different, which I would think so. But overall I'm an aggressive player and that's going to be my game anyway. So when I feel like I have the right shot, I need to be aggressive, I need to come in, it doesn't matter if it's Andy or Roger Federer on the other side, it doesn't matter. Just going to have to play my game.

Q. You mentioned you see a little bit of yourself in him in that you have a go at your coach, all that sort of thing on the court?
TOMMY HAAS: Yeah.

Q. Why do players have a go at their coach?
TOMMY HAAS: I mean, I think it's tough to really explain it, you know. I mean there's really only a few guys or elite group of players, you know, in the top 10, as well, and you know everybody is obviously different, but we all are a little bit crazy, the ones that are top 30, top 20. I think they all a little different philosophy about many things.

Q. Why do you?
TOMMY HAAS: I don't know. I mean, I'm not going at my coach or whoever is in the box, you know, saying meaningful things on purpose, or, you know, that I actually mean. It's just, you know, you just let it out. You know, you're there with the team, you know it's a single sport, you're always on the court by yourself. Tennis is a very strong, complicated game with a lot of different factors that I could sit here for probably an hour and talk about which other sports have it much easier than us tennis players.
But, you know, so when our coach maybe doesn't look at you the second you look at them, because you may have missed the tough shot, and there was, you know, a close call, whatever, you know, you just want to let him know that, listen, I'm here, let's go. I mean, that's what you're here for.
So I think me and Andy are pretty similar, what we say or how we are actually trying to get the attention from our coach every once. It's not like we want to be coached or need to hear something, we just want to, you know, feel like we're a team, that's all.

Q. Was there any positive mental or emotional thing that has really helped you after the injury, I mean, that you took away from that injury when you started to come back which really helped you become the player you are today?
TOMMY HAAS: The only thing really that I'm grateful is the surgery went well and that I had good guys around me that whole time to never, you know, stop believing in me. And, you know, that's basically also Nick Bollettieri, (indiscernible), the guy that was working on my shoulder for a long time, Dave Hogarth (phonetic). So that's really the main thing that I'm back, I can play without pain, you know. You never know. You always sometimes in the back of your mind know that you have a serious surgery there, so you always hope, you know, if you feel a little bit, like a little tweak or a little pain, hopefully it's not too serious.
Sometimes the balls are pretty soft and you feel your own shoulder more than other days, and you just hope that something like this will not reoccur until the end of your career, basically, 'cause that's like, for a sport guy, in general, I think, you know to stop or to always worry about injuries, there's nothing worse.
So, you know, you appreciate just being healthy and that's really the most important.

Q. Is it a maturity issue or anything like that?
TOMMY HAAS: (No audible response.)

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