Can Haas enter the big picture?

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Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Former top-10 star Tommy Haas has been looking like a soon-to-be top-10 player in 2006.

The 6-foot-2 German collected his third ATP title of the year (all in the U.S.) last week in Los Angeles and is enjoying his best campaign since 2001, when he went 57-21, piled up four titles and finished at No. 8 on the planet, which still marks his best-ever year-end placement. He soared to a career-high No. 2 in the world in May of 2002.

Haas missed the entire 2003 season after undergoing a pair of surgeries on his delicate right shoulder. It appeared as though he might be left for tennis dead following the procedures, but the long-time Florida resident fought his way back and actually finished at No. 17 on the globe in 2004, a year in which he was also named as the ATP's Comeback Player of the Year.

Last year, Haas was an okay 37-22, but failed to title anywhere and was starting to look like an afterthought on the ultra-competitive circuit. But he's been solid in '06, as evidenced by the trio of titles and a current No. 17 ranking. He's already reached the semis or better in six of his tournaments this year.

Tommy Haas
Tommy Haas has already won 36 matches and a trio of titles this season.

The 28-year-old star opened his season by reaching a semifinal in Qatar and the fourth round at the Aussie Open, where he lost to the incomparable Roger Federer in January. But before losing to the "Fed," the German bested the mighty Swiss at a pre-Aussie Open exhibition event the week before at Kooyong. That was the last time that Federer lost to anyone not named Rafael Nadal.

Unfortunately for Haas, he's 0-4 versus Federer in official action this season.

Too bad.

On the heels of his fourth-round finish in Melbourne, Haas promptly titled at Delray Beach, split a pair of Davis Cup matches for Germany, and claimed another championship in Memphis, and he wasn't even through February yet.

FYI, Haas is a career 19-5 Davis Cup performer, including a 16-5 mark in singles.

Haas didn't title again until last week, but he's now got his 2006 record at 36-13, and only Federer (6) and Nadal (5) have titled more than the Hamburg native this year. He's a perfect 3-0 so far when he reaches a final in '06.

The 2000 Olympic silver medalist Haas nailed down his 10th career title at last week's Countrywide Classic, and pushed his career prize money to just over $7.3 million. He topped big-hitting Dmitry Tursunov in the final after dropping the first set against the capable Russian, earning him his second L.A. championship in three years. Haas is a stellar 13-3 at that event.

Now Haas does have wins over the likes of Andy Roddick and Andre Agassi this year, but Roddick has struggled all season long and Andre is clearly past his prime at this point, so the German is still seeking one of those truly upper- echelon victories this season (i.e. a Federer, a Nadal, a Nalbandian, etc.). Again, that January victory over the Fed did not count.

Starting in less than four weeks, Haas will look to improve upon his 19-9 career record at the U.S. Open, where he reached the quarterfinals in 2004. The German has been relatively disappointing at Grand Slam events over the last 10 years, reaching only a pair of major semis, with both coming at the Australian Open. He suffered third-round setbacks at this year's French Open and Wimbledon events.

Haas is once again the top-ranked German, but, let's face it...Boris Becker he's not. He's enjoying a fine season, but he's still seeking that elusive breakthrough at a Slam. Who knows? Maybe he'll do just that in Flushing.

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