Wimbledon-Johnson & Haas, In Truth They Won

Though they were merely first round Wimbledon matches, both Steve Johnson and Tommy Haas earned kudos for their performances. Even more important, they set personal records. Johnson, the former USC stalwart, had previously lost his only two matches at the All England Lawn Tennis Club. This time out, he notched his first win on the luxuriant lawn, scoring a scrappy 6-3, 7-6, 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 victory over Lukas Lacko of Slovakia, serving thirty-three aces and capturing the third five-set match of his career.

Steve Johnson  Photo www.zimbio.com

Steve Johnson
Photo www.zimbio.com

Haas, who had been sidelined due to right shoulder surgery since June 2014, was playing only his third tournament of the year. A 2009 Wimbledon semifinalist, this was his first Grand Slam appearance since Roland Garros last year. Throughout his career, he has been plagued by an anatomy class collection of injuries, but his dogged determination has put him back in competition, yet again.

In his first match at The Championships, he defeated Dusan Lajovic of Serbia, 6-2, 6-3, 4-6, 6-2. With the triumph, he became, at thirty-seven, the oldest player to win a Wimbledon singles contest since Jimmy Connors in 1991, who was thirty-eight at the time.

In a “You couldn’t have written it any better” script, Connors, the tournament winner in 1974 and 1982, was defeated in the third round, that year, by another Southern Californian, Derrick Rostagno, 7-6, 6-1, 6-4. (The round just before that, Rostagno downed Pete Sampras in four sets.)

On a sweltering day, one that set a tournament temperature record (According to the BBC Wimbledon tennis broadcasters 44.2 Celsius was the reported high.), both local residents were bold, but came up short against seeded opponents. Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria, No. 11, slipped past Johnson, 7-6, 6-2, 7-6 in two hours and eleven minutes. Milos Raonic got out of the gate like Triple Crown winner American Pharoah for a two set lead. That was before Haas got a feeling for the turf and offered strong opposition. In the end, the Canadian, seeded No. 7, earned a 6-0, 6-2, 6-7, 7-6 decision in two hours and thirty-four minutes.

The Match Statistics indicated exactly why Dimitrov was successful. Relying on the basic numbers, (and Johnson’s mother, Michelle, is a math professor at a college in Orange County), he had forty-seven total winners and made twenty-four unforced errors compared to the twenty-nine and twenty-six totals put up by the Southern Californian.

“He is a very good player, and I got passive in the second set,” Johnson said following the encounter. “I left a few forehands hanging in the second set and he put them away. I had been pretty consistent in the first set and played better in the third than I did the set before, but he showed why he is so highly ranked.”

Staying with the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) approach, Raonic hit a staggering sixty-one winners and made thirty-two unforced errors. Haas wasn’t driving the ball through the court as his count – twenty-two winners and eighteen unforced errors – shows. In addition, the winner pounded twenty-nine aces.

Tommy Haas  Photo tennisnet.com

Tommy Haas
Photo tennisnet.com

“Obviously, not the best start for me,” Haas said. “He came out firing and swinging away, and I, believe it or not, put some Kinesio tape on my shoulder to keep everything back, and I think it was too strong so I couldn’t really reach for my serve in the beginning.  I didn’t figure that out until the beginning of the second set.

“But, either way, he played extremely well and put me under pressure. It made me think a lot of things, right away, and took a lot of confidence away.

“But, that’s the beauty of the best of five. You’re never really out of it until the last point.  It would have been great to have taken it to a fifth, but, he served really well.”

Both Johnson and Haas can leave the 129th Wimbledon with their heads held high. “Playing five sets and winning my first match here was fun,” Johnson said. “It is something I will remember for the rest of my life.”

Haas’ return from another surgery was similarly dramatic. Lleyton Hewitt, the Australian who was the Wimbledon champion in 2002 and lost in the first round of The Championships to Jarkko Nieminen of Finland, 11-9 in the fifth set, when asked about Haas, said, “Tommy obviously does a lot of hard work.  He’s in great shape still.  He’s had some terrible surgeries and layoffs over the years.  It’s great to see him back and winning matches.

“I think he’s probably driven by spending so much time on the sidelines. It’s kind of like me because I had four years where I had five different surgeries. You realize how much you miss the game.

“When you do hang ’em up, you’re going to be retired for an awfully long time.  You want to get absolutely the most out of yourself.  I think Tommy’s probably at that stage.”

Steve Johnson and Tommy Haas can leave the All England Lawn Tennis Club with their heads held high. Though they lost, in truth, they won.

Mark Winters

Look for a fresh examination of tennis topics at “Mark Thoughts”

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