Now halfway through our look back series on the top 10 ATP matches of the season, we arrive at no. 5 on the list, this time a third round contest at Roland Garros between towering American John Isner and German no. 1 Tommy Haas. The two battled for over four and a half hours on the clay court in Bullring to the delight of the French crowd present that day. What appeared to be a dominant performance from Haas soon turned into a thrilling affair as Isner mounted a phenomenal comeback to send the match into a deciding fifth set. Unlike many other five-set matches, the final set did not disappoint in the slightest.
Tommy Haas def. John Isner 7-5, 7-6(4), 4-6, 6-7(10), 10-8
The marathon match began as a relatively close contest, with Haas looking the fresher of the two having spent less time on court in his previous two matches. He secured the lone break in the opening set and would close it out 7-5. The second set was an even closer affair, as Isner was determined not to make the same mistakes he commit in the opening set. With neither party willing to give in, the set reached a decisive tiebreak, which was eventually won by Haas 7-4.
The match began to take shape in the third set as Isner appeared to have woken up and came storming back to take the set 6-4. His serve percentage increased and he was committing far less errors, which contributed to his success. It was also clear that Haas was not as focused as he was in the previous two sets. Isner continued to mount his magnificent comeback as he racked off 27 aces and 92 winners while defending 20 of 23 break points faced in the match. He was far more aggressive and consistent on the big points, and was finally able to overcome the German in their second tiebreak of the evening.
The fifth set was arguably the height of the drama, as the frenzy on court 1 reached its peak, with both players determined to get the upper hand. IT did not look well for Haas as Isner held a 4-1 lead before the decisive shift occurred. The German saved a match point late in the set, and followed up by taking advantage of the tired Isner and made the deciding breakthrough in the 17th game of the fifth set. It would be Isner’s fifth straight five-set defeat at a Grand Slam.
Haas considers the match one he would definitely look back on because of the drama in the fifth set, with him saving a match point at 4-5 down.
“It’s crazy,” said a relieved Haas. “It was a big roller coaster with not many thoughts in between. He had match point at 4-5, and somehow I saved that one. It went back and forth. It’s definitely going to be one of the best matches to look back on, for sure.”
Now 35 years old, Haas is playing some of the most inspired tennis of his career, as he is now hovering just outside the top 10. The German had missed a fair bit of glory in his younger days due to constant injuries that ravaged his body but has now proven that even at his age, he is still capable of hanging with the best. He would go on to pick up a hard court victory over Novak Djokovic that season as well as win two titles, including one in his native Germany. Many expect Haas to continue his career resurgence in the upcoming season and his trajectory certainly seems to be pointing in that direction. As long as he remains injury-free, we can continue to expect more dramatic performances from him.