Retirement from the ATP World Tour hasn’t exactly proved relaxing for BNP Paribas Open Tournament Director Tommy Haas. While the former World No. 2 officially said goodbye to his playing days during this year’s tournament in March, Haas has certainly kept busy – juggling time with his family; playing on the Champions Tour; and dipping his toes into the coaching waters. All while keeping his eye on the prize of making the 2019 BNP Paribas Open once again a highlight for both players and fans alike.
With the third Grand Slam of the tennis season just underway in London, we caught up with the busy Haas to get his thoughts on the revered event, his favorite memories at the All England Club and more.
So, what have you been up to since the end of the tournament here in Indian Wells?
It’s been busy! I’ve been traveling a little bit, spending some time with my family in Germany, and now at Wimbledon for the past week or so getting ready.
I’ve also been helping out [ATP Player] Lucas Pouille for a bit now, which has been fun…and challenging. We had some talks with his team at the end of last year, and hit it off pretty well. I didn’t see myself coaching a player this quickly after I just retired myself, but when someone reaches out and asks for your help, you want to help him achieve his goals and his dreams.
It’s been a good experience, getting to see the behind-the-scenes. Between my role at Indian Wells and now as a coach – it’s a different mentality, a different look from the outside trying to provide the right information, the right encouragement. It’s a fun way for me to see it full circle.
Besides that, I’ve been playing a little bit on the Champions Tour and a couple exhibition matches here and there. I’m playing the doubles invitational [at Wimbledon]. Plus with my two daughters – we have some plans with them this summer – but everything is good!
How has retirement been treating you so far?
It’s still so new for me. There are still times when I’m out there hitting balls and feeling good and you realize whoa – I’m actually done playing on the Tour. But for me it truly is over, and I’m happy with it and I knew that time had to come sooner or later.
I think it really rang the bell for me when I turned 40 this year. I was happy I was not competing on the Tour anymore and trying to grind it out, as much as I love it. Now I get to play on the Invesco Champions Tour here in the States, so I still go out there and compete and want to win, but if it doesn’t go your way, it’s all just for good fun.
You had a special moment earlier this month in Halle. What did that mean to you to be recognized in your home country at a tournament you won twice?
It was very nice, a very nice surprise.
It’s nice to read the things I did achieve, I think you’re always your own worst enemy, you know? You always go I could have had many more match wins, or more titles, or done better.
But it’s a nice achievement, it’s nice to be recognized for that and to receive that. It’s very special.
Who do you have your eye on as Wimbledon gets underway?
On the women’s side, Serena [Williams] hasn’t played that many tournaments, but every time she steps on the court she is a force to reckon with. The surface fits her game really well and depending on the draw she can do some damage – same counts for her sister Venus. Also, Maria Sharapova who likes to play here with her type of game as well, then the World No. 1 player, obviously, Simona Halep. She’s confident and playing well, and I’m sure she would love nothing more than to hold up the Wimbledon trophy. Caroline Wozniacki is always up there with the favorites; who knows Victoria Azarenka she can get some momentum. There’s a lot of possibilities that can happen here, so it’s exciting to see what will happen.
On the men’s side, to me Roger Federer is the favorite and it will depend on the draw as well to see if there is anyone there that can hurt him. It’ll be interesting to see how [Rafael Nadal] does, the weather has been great here and I think that favors Rafa. It’ll be interesting to see what Novak Djokovic is doing; he is slowly getting back into his groove. You have to put Marin Cilic in the mix as well. And you can never forget Nick Kyrgios, he’s such a talented player, if he get to the third or fourth round watch out for him as well, he’s a dangerous player.
What are your favorite memories of playing here at Wimbledon?
One that stands out is 1998 when I played Andre Agassi on Centre Court for the first time. He was one of my idols growing up. I had the chance to play tennis with him when I was 14 years old when I came to the Bollettieri Academy, so I always had a close relationship to him and he always looked out for me when he had the chance. So that was very special to win the match against him after watching him win it in 1992 as a big fan. It was special to beat him on Centre Court [4-6, 6-1, 7-64, 6-4].
Then my run to the semi-finals in 2009 and losing to Roger [Federer]. I played great tennis those two weeks, I was proud to have my breakthrough finally I finally got over the fourth round and made it all the way to the semis beating Djokovic and Cilic on the way – that was special.
I’ve had a number of great matches, like three tiebreaks with Wayne Arthurs [in 1999]. Lots of great memories and also some sad ones. But it’s been a love / hate relationship with Wimbledon for me, but it’s always great to be here. One of those amazing tournaments, every time you step foot on the grounds you realize how special it is.
What’s the one thing you can’t miss when you come to London – whether it’s somewhere to eat, something to do – give us the inside scoop.
For me personally, since I’ve been here as a player, it’s sad to say, you don’t get much off the grounds. But the workouts in Wimbledon Park, that’s something I’ve really enjoyed over the years.
Also, I like Indian food, and I don’t eat it that much, but there’s one here called Wimbledon Tandoori which I always have to go to multiple times when I’m here.
This year is the first year where I might have a little more time, and I’m actually playing the doubles legends event the second week. I might actually have more time this time around to do a few more things, and get the family to London maybe take them on the London Eye, see the city, tour the sights a little bit.
What’s going on in Tennis Paradise these days – besides the heat!?
We always try to find ways to make our event even more special than the year before. We’re lucky to get amazing feedback from players, fans and sponsors, but we’re always working on new ideas and new ways to make it better – there’s always room for improvement. The facilities look so nice and just continuing to improve the Gardens for the fans, the families for everyone to enjoy.