Haas is all the way back

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Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Tommy Haas, a one-time No. 1 threat, broke through this past weekend to nail down his first ATP title since 2001.

Haas, who had been plagued by shoulder problems, battled his way through the 2002 season before finally succumbing to right shoulder surgery, which, unfortunately, forced him to miss the entire 2003 campaign and the beginning of this 2004 term.

As a matter of fact, Haas had a pair of surgeries before his return this year, which was punctuated with a huge victory in Houston this past Sunday, as he upset U.S. Open champion and former world No. 1 Andy Roddick in straight sets at the U.S. Men's Clay Court Championships to gain his first winner's trophy in 30 long months (that's 2 1/2 years). It also marked the German's first-ever title on clay.

Tommy Haas
Tommy Haas missed the entire 2003 season while recovering from shoulder surgeries.
Haas had rotator cuff surgery in December 2002 and underwent an arthroscopic procedure in July of last year to place him at the starting point of the proverbial comeback trail.

The German matinee idol has always possessed the tools to be a No. 1 star, but a series of injuries and suspect mental toughness have prevented him from reaching the very top. He climbed as high as No. 2 at one point and achieved his lone year-end top-10 finish in 2001 (8th).

The 26-year-old has disappointed tennis aficionados with only six career titles, in 15 finals, but maybe that's all about to change, considering he appears to be healthy now.

"I'd like to keep it rolling," Haas said after stunning Roddick.

At 6-foot-2, 195 pounds, Haas has the perfect frame to accompany his rather formidable game.

He sat out for 16 months before mounting his comeback in February and even admitted that he didn't expect to win a tournament so soon. Well...he did, and it only took five events to do it.

"There's only so much you can do off court, but once you actually hit the court it's different," he said. "With people watching, the adrenaline starts moving around so it's a different ball game."

Haas hadn't appeared in a final since 2002 and hadn't run the table at a tourney since prevailing in Stuttgart in his native Germany in October 2001.

The Hamburg native, who is a long-time Bradenton, Florida resident, said, "It means a lot more to me after my injuries to come back and win a title again."

When Haas handled the world No. 2 Roddick, he improved to 4-0 lifetime against the powerful American, which leads one to believe the German does belong in the top 10. The big-serving Roddick had won his last eight finals.

The question now is how will Haas fare at his first Grand Slam event in two years when the French Open commences late next month? He's never made it past the fourth round at Roland Garros, going 8-5 in five trips there. As a matter of fact, he's only made it past the fourth round in two of his 22 Grand Slam appearances, with a pair of semifinal berths at the 1999 and 2002 Aussie Opens.

The 2000 Olympic silver medalist is one of only five Germans to finish inside the top 10 since the rankings began in 1973, joining retired Wimbledon champions Boris Becker and Michael Stich and current stars Rainer Schuettler and Nicolas Kiefer. Haas would like to join the game's elite once again.

I think he will.

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Scott Riley
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