Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Can a 35-Year-Old American (Sort of) Make a Run at the Open?
NEW YORK — Can a 35-year-old American man make a deep run in this US Open?
No, we’re not winding back the clocks to the days of Jimmy Connors or Andre Agassi.Tommy Haas, who owns duel citizenship in Germany and the U.S. and moved to Florida in 1991, is now through to the third round despite his advanced age.
“I don’t know the statistic in many other sports, but I think people in the mid 30s can still do some of their best times,” Haas, the No. 12 seed, said Friday after dispatching Yen-Hsun Lu of Taiwan, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6. “If you look at maybe triathletes or even the ironmans, those are the guys in my age or even older and they’re doing their best times ever.”
No man over 30 has won the US Open since Pete Sampras’ swan song in 2002.
Five-time champ Roger Federer, 32, is trying to capture his 18th Major here, while Haas has reached the semifinals of four Majors, including the Australian Open way back in 1999 and Wimbledon in 2009.
“If you look at some former champions, even like Andre Agassi when he was 34, 35, 36, what high level he was playing, it was inspirational for me at that time,” Haas said.
“Other people have done it in their late 30s as well. Look at Jimmy Connors when he was 39. Those moments stick out in your brain. The game also has gotten more physical, and there is no question that the body can only take so much.
“You know, as long as you keep trying and pushing as much as you can, who knows where it can take you? For me, it’s been definitely worth every little time that I have dedicated to it.”
Haas is playing in his 16th US Open, most of any player in the singles draw. He is in the same quarter as No. 1 seed Novak Djokovic, who advanced in straight sets over Benjamin Becker on Friday. Next up for Haas is a tough match against No. 21 Mikhail Youzhny of Russia.
Haas has never advanced past the quarterfinals in Flushing Meadows.
As of Friday afternoon, only three American men were through to the third round: No. 13 John Isner, Jack Sock of Lincoln, Nebr., and wildcard Tim Smyczek of Milwaukee, who won an epic five-setter Friday over Russian Alex Bogomolov Jr., 7-5, 2-6, 6-4, 5-7, 7-6 (5).
No American has won the Open — or any Major — since Andy Roddick took home the title here in 2003, some 40 Majors ago.
As more and more of the young Americans get bounced from the Open, American tennis fans might choose to embrace Haas.
Haas officially represents Germany because he said he doesn’t want to deal with the backlash from the German press if he were to switch his allegiance to the U.S, although he did briefly rep the U.S. in 2010.
Patrick McEnroe, the general manager of player development for the United States Tennis Association, told the New York Times he has no plans to recruit foreign players.
“I would love for Tommy Haas to be an American, but that’s his call,” McEnroe said. “I know that he thought about that a couple of years ago. But at least from my perspective with the U.S.T.A., I can tell you that we don’t pursue any players that have that dual citizenship. I would never go to Tommy Haas and say, ‘Hey, I really want you to play for the U.S.’ In my role with the U.S.T.A., I wouldn’t do that.”
Still, Haas sounds like he wants to keep the door open for American to root him on at the Open.
“It’s up to reporters here in the U.S., and if you look at it that way, if you think I’m also representing the U.S. flag even though it’s not there,” Haas said earlier in the tournament, according to the Times. “In many ways I feel like I am, so maybe you guys should, too.”
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.