Tennis: Federer not surprised as Haas pulls off shock for the ages

World No. 5 Roger Federer returning a shot against good friend and fellow veteran Tommy Haas in Stuttgart. The 39-year-old German won 2-6, 7-6 (10-8), 6-4.
World No. 5 Roger Federer returning a shot against good friend and fellow veteran Tommy Haas in Stuttgart. The 39-year-old German won 2-6, 7-6 (10-8), 6-4.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

STUTTGART • Roger Federer insisted he was not shocked by his second-round defeat to 39-year-old Tommy Haas at the Stuttgart grass-court tournament on Wednesday in his first match after almost three months out of action.

Haas, a former world No. 2 but now down at No. 302, won 2-6, 7-6 (10-8), 6-4 for just his fourth victory in 17 meetings against his close friend.

Federer, building up for an assault on an eighth Wimbledon title, had not played since March, skipping the entire clay-court season.

It was just the second defeat of this year for the 35-year-old, who claimed the Australian Open for his 18th Grand Slam title in January.

His only other defeat was against Russia's Evgeny Donskoy in Dubai.

"I'm not so shocked to have lost. I knew I could lose against Tommy," said the world No. 5.

"He was so good at the end and if I am happy for anybody, then it's for Tommy."

However, despite his acknowledgement of Haas, he was visibly upset with the result.

"Coming here and losing in the semis last year, now the opening round this year, it's not what I was hoping to do," said the Swiss.

"Especially on grass courts, close to home, in Germany, which has been a good hunting ground for me. It's not good enough.

"If you don't take your chances like I didn't, leading a set and a break, you really only have yourself to blame at the end.

"There were definitely some good moments, but I definitely was not as sharp as I was hoping to be in the big moments.

"I definitely made some crucial mistakes and judgment errors."

The two players' combined age of 74 was the highest on the Tour since 1982.

Haas, playing in his final season, made his first quarter-final since Rome in 2014.

"It's always special to play a close friend like Roger on grass, always lots of emotion," said the German, who has undergone nine surgeries in his career to mend a number of ailments.

"I'm a little bit speechless that I beat him today. I even shocked myself. It's a very special feeling.

"At the same time he's a very close friend of mine so it doesn't feel like such a celebration in that sense.

"I was happy to be out there in front of a German crowd playing against a friend, an idol, a legend, the greatest ever. It's fantastic."

He is the oldest player to beat a top-five opponent since Jimmy Connors, who at 39 years and five months defeated Michael Stich in Memphis in 1992.

He is also the lowest-ranked player to beat Federer since No. 407 Bjorn Phau at Washington in 1999.

Haas will today face compatriot Mischa Zverev, who beat qualifier and fellow German Yannick Hanfmann 7-6 (7-1), 6-2 in 83 minutes.

In yesterday's second-round match, world No. 14 Tomas Berdych defeated Australia's Bernard Tomic 7-6 (7-4), 6-2.

The Czech will be up against Spain's Feliciano Lopez in the quarter-finals today.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 16, 2017, with the headline 'Federer not surprised as Haas pulls off shock for the ages'. Print Edition | Subscribe