16 Feb On Top of the World
By STEVE DORSEY
DELRAY BEACH, Fla. – Tommy Haas said he regarded Fernando Gonzalez as one of the toughest opponents he faced when both were on the regular ATP Tour. Haas needed all he could muster Saturday night to defeat Gonzalez in the nightcap of the ATP Champions Tour Delray Beach Open at the Delray Beach Stadium.
“He made some unbelievable shots at times. It almost felt like old times,” Haas said after needing a lengthy third-set tiebreak beat Gonzalez 6-7(5), 6-3, 13-11. “When he was on top of his game he was one of the toughest players to play. His serve was good, he hit the spots, the forehand was just lethal. It’s always a challenge playing against him, and even tonight I could feel it at times. . . . It was definitely a very competitive match. Fernando’s such a great shotmaker.”
The win by Haas gives Team World a 4-2 lead against Team Americas heading into the final two matches of the three-day ATP Champions Tour event, the only tournament that combines both the ATP Champions and regular Tour at the same venue during the same week.
Team World needs to win just one of the two final matches on Sunday to claim the Delray Beach Open title.
The competition was tied at 1-1 entering Saturday’s matches, but Team World took both of the afternoon matches to grab a 3-1 advantage entering the evening matches.
South African Wayne Ferreira and Swede Mikael Pernfors teamed up to defeat American Jay Berger and Gonzalez 6-3, 4-6, 10-5. Brit Tim Henman took down American Jan-Michael Gambill 6-4, 6-2 to extend Team World’s lead to 3-1.
Canadian Jesse Levine narrowed the deficit for Team Americas with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Ferreira in opening match of the evening session, setting up the nightcap between the respective team captains. Levine also won his singles match Friday night to open the three-day competition and will have a chance to go 3-0 when he faces Haas on Sunday in the final match of the Champions Tour event.
Ferreira and Henman will have a chance to clinch the title for Team World when they square off against Gambill and Gonzalez in a doubles match at 12:30 p.m.
Gonzalez, who last played on the regular ATP Tour in 2012, said he tired a little in the second set, but tipped his cap to the effort of Haas.
“It was a great match. He played better in the end,” Gonzalez said. “It’s fun to play him, but tonight not so much because I lost.”
Following the match, Delray Beach Open tournament chairman Ivan Baron announced that Haas was being inducted into the tournament’s walk of fame, joining John McEnroe and the Bryan brothers.
“It was really cool,” Haas said of the announcement. “It’s an honor. I didn’t expect something like this. To be the third one after McEnroe and the Bryan brothers, it’s real special. I’ve known the Baron family for a long time and I always enjoy coming here and playing the events. It’s a very special place in my heart.”