At age 11, Tommy Haas quickly became a name that the tennis world could not ignore, including tennis coaching icon Nick Bollettieri. Bollettieri took the young Haas under his guidance in Bradenton, FL at what is now known as IMG Academy. It was here that Haas evolved into an exceptional tennis player, playing on the same courts as legends like Agassi and Sampras. It was no surprise that by 1996, Haas had started his professional tennis career where he soon found himself climbing the rankings to world No. 2.
Unfortunately, Haas grew to know both success and the pain of putting his body through intense training and grueling matches. Injury struck in 2003 with two shoulder operations. The road back at age 25 was one that Tommy faced with confidence that this would not mark the end of an already successful career.
âThe tough thing about tennis is when you're away from the sport for so long, and that was after my first time of shoulder surgery and I was out for about 15 months," he said. "I was 25 so I knew I am going to come back no matter what it takes for me to come back because it's way too early to stop in my eyes.â
Shortly after coming back in 2005, he injured his shoulder once again, followed by inflammation in his right elbow, which meant an early drop out for Tommy Haas at the 2008 US Open -- a tournament where he had reached the quarterfinals three times (2004, 2006 and 2007). The âadversity warrior' fought his way back in 2009 as he climbed back into the top 20 in the world and narrowly lost to Roger Federer in the semifinals of Wimbledon.
Today, the 32 year old is again being faced with challenges and changes in his career. Reoccurring knee and hip injuries have Haas staring down an all too familiar path. But the pro has a few tricks up his sleeve including a support staff at IMG Academy, a place that Haas feels, âis like my home.â
âEvery time I come here I feel like the Academy is part of my life," Haas says. "I have been here for 20 years almost exactly. It's always great to come back here because I know everybody, everybody is nice and everybody has a lot of knowledge about not only tennis.â
Haas knows this next push back into the rankings will be harder than before for him physically and mentally.
âTo really get back into a good ranking system I have to play a good year of solid tennis. If I'm physically strong I can maybe come back and play a lot of matches and feel like I'm mentally still there. I feel like I can still maybe do some damage somewhere.â
In order to have a big year, Haas will surround himself with what he calls âpositive people that have been there.â For Haas this includes people at IMG Academy that are âcoming in and out all the time and you have top players that you see and you kind of tell yourself watch out when I'm healthy I'm going to get you. You have this mentality. And you have a lot of help now too. You have the nutrition guys here, you have the mental guys here, you have game on here, which you know they can all help you in some sort of way to make you feel better, make you hungry, write down your goals, what you still have. And you know it really does help. There are so many things you can do.â
He adds: âAnything for recovery or your body that really helps you is great, and that's all coming (to IMG) so that's wonderful.â
While IMG Academy and its coaches have played a significant role in Tommy Haas's many recoveries, there is a part of facing adversity that Haas believes cannot always be taught or coached.
âI think a lot has to do with your own personality,â Haas said. âIf you love a sport, you love competing, you love to be out there, and you know what it's like, it's going to come natural to be trying to do everything possible to get back there."
Tommy Haas will continue to push through another obstacle in his tennis career. This next road of adversity will be paved with his determination and support staff at IMG Academy, but more importantly the driver will be his natural and pure love for the sport that created the journey.