By David Packman
In an interesting twist, it was actually the hopes of the locals riding on the shoulders of Tommy Haas in his match against world No.1 Novak Djokovic tonight.
Should the German prevail, his country would move ahead in its tie against Serbia, one they must win to put Australia into the final.
As it was, the 34-year-old veteran proved no match for Djokovic, losing in an entertaining, but ultimately one-sided affair, 6-2 6-0. The Serb’s win now gives his team the edge, which, should they go on to defeat Germany, would see them take on Spain in tomorrow night’s final – and the Australian fairytale dashed.
Despite having toppled Djokovic on two previous occasions, albeit both back in 2009, Haas was unable to keep pace with the Serb tonight, whose unrelenting accuracy and power simply wore down the veteran German.
Entering his 18th year on tour, Haas is enjoying quite a wag in the tail end of his career. He has carried on his good form here in Perth, arguably letting one get away in losing to Aussie Bernard Tomic before defeating Italy’s Andreas Seppi in two tiebreaks.
Djokovic, on the other hand, has had a self-confessed slow start, not looking his best in either of his previous matches here. Despite getting past Seppi in straight sets, Tomic dispatched him 6-4 6-4 in one of the greatest upsets in the history of this event.
Tonight, however, Djokovic displayed some form much closer to what we expect from him during the Australian summer, and despite the usual copybook stroke making of the German, the Serb was the aggressor from the beginning, whipping out to a 4-0 lead in the blink of an eye.
“It’s been a great performance from beginning to the end,” said Djokovic. “Tommy is always a tricky player and surely he’s not the one to underestimate on the court and you know I tried my best, I was really focused from the start and I just felt drastically better than in the first few days here in Perth so I think that’s also the reason because I’ve been here a few more days and got some rest, got some practice, got used to the balls, the conditions here so I’m glad I brought Serbia a point.”
Out of the blue, he then let a service game slip from 40-0 – the result of a few errant shots and some terrific work from his opponent who was digging deep in an attempt to quell the Serbian onslaught. Haas maintained his level and went on to hold for the first time in the match.
Much to the delight of the crowd, the German was looking much more like the player who ended the year ranked just outside the world’s top twenty. However, his newfound intensity simply incited Djokovic to raise his own game further, and the Serb ran away with the first set 6-2.
The second set provided some entertainment for the crowd, but Djokovic had all the answers and, as in the first, raced away early.
“C’mon Tommy, Australia needs you!” came the cry from the crowd, which not only elicited a big smile from the German but a cracking backhand passing shot that brought up break point. Another ripping backhand from a Djokovic net cord brought up a second moments later – and there was even a third – but the Serb was impenetrable and eventually held on for 3-0.
That looked to be about everything the German had left, as the world No.1 then broke serve with a flourish – whipping a wide forehand crosscourt for an untouchable winner – before rushing out to 5-0 and then closing the deal by breaking Haas to love.
On court after the match, Djokovic was pleased with his own form. “It’s good to see what a few extra days practice will do,” he said.
Ana Ivanovic will now take to the court to play German Tatjana Malek, Should Ivanovic win, Serbia will take the tie and move into the final against Spain.
If the German can triumph, she will level the tie at 1-1, and everything will rest on a live mixed doubles encounter.