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Old 03-12-2004, 06:25 PM   #1
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Default Tennis Warehouse report from the Pacific Life Open

10:10 a.m.

Indian Wells Pacific Life Open, Friday, March 12 - On a breezy morning, Tommy Haas and Thomas Enqvist start their first round match to an almost empty stadium. It's quite odd to see these former marquee players go to battle with less people watching than you'd get at a match between two local high school tennis teams. Go back two years, and such a match up would have probably taken place in front of a packed house, at night, and most likely deep in the second week.

For those few who made the effort to make it to the stadium early this Friday, they are in for a three-set showdown of excellent shot making.

Early in the first set, both players provide glimpses of their all-court prowess. In the second game, Enqvist starts to relax and move the ball around the court. He puts some pressure on the Haas backhand, and the German's legendary one-hander still looks a bit rusty as he floats the ball up for an easy Enqvist volley winner.

At only 2-2, the players have already traded breaks, setting a trend that would continue for much of the first set. Enqvist, in particular, struggles to string points together in his service games. However, his forehand looks particularly impressive. Anything hit mid-court by Haas is pounced on. Enqvist closes quickly, racquet pulled back to the forehand side. As he moves forward, he keeps the back swing short, level with his right hip. As he closes in on the ball it's the butt cap of the racquet which starts the explosive movement forward. However, the racquet head doesn't hang around for more than an instant. Suddenly, the face of the racquet explodes forward, strings ripping through the ball. The contact is far out in front, the Swede's eyes fixed on the ball. Enqvist's Liquidmetal Prestige continues its forward acceleration, through the ball, and out over his left shoulder. By the time Enqvist has finished his follow through, Haas can do nothing but watch, as this particular point is history.

Enqvist is here looking to recapture his form of previous years. Haas, fresh off a long break from a shoulder injury, is looking for his first Tour win of 2004.

By the sixth game of the opening set, the pattern of one player making a great shot to finish one point, then hitting an unforced error to finish the next fades away and both settle into a more consistent rhythm.

Tennis fans, who are now making their way in after most likely drool over all the goodies inside the Tennis Warehouse tent, are now starting to out number the empty seats.

The match, and the weather, have started to heat up. An atmosphere worthy of these two seasoned pros starts to develop. Both players respond by hitting some spectacular winners.

Haas has now started to find the groove on his backhand.

In contrast to his forehand, which is a flurry of energy, Haas' backhand is smooth and effortless. It seems like Haas has forever to take his Dunlop racquet back, set it for either a slice or topspin drive, and then swing it through the shot. The ball is struck well out in front and the motion of Haas' one-handed topspin backhand is one of everything working in unison. Pace seems to come from nowhere. Every time I watch him hit one I can't help but want to get up out of my seat, head out to the practice courts and rip a couple myself.

Haas closes out the first set at 6-4, and is hitting his first serve with much more pace and confidence than at the start of the match.

At the start of the second set, both players look like they've worked the bugs out of their games.

At every opportunity, Enqvist dominates with his forehand. Even off a strong Haas serve, Enqvist remains aggressive, often taking control of the point early.

Haas has also picked up his game, but it is Enqvist who is doing a better job of stringing points together. As the set progresses Enqvist gets out to a lead, which he holds through some aggressive, all court play.

With a 6-3 score in the second set, Enqvist has leveled the match at one set all. Even more fans spill into the stadium and the excitement grows as the players start the third set.

It's Haas who gets the first break. He is finally starting to look like the stronger player again, moving the ball around with a mixture of spins and angles. His backhand down the line consistently catches Enqvist out of position. Haas is looking stronger on serve and starting to pick up more quick points from service winners.

Just when it looks like Haas will continue to hold serve for the rest of the set, a couple of loose points give Enqvist a break point. Haas serves and the players get into a rally. Again, Enqvist attacks with the forehand, moving in on a short ball to the Haas backhand. Haas pulls his racquet back, sets up and rips through the ball, but on this occasion finds nothing but net. Enqvist is back in the set. A big serve gets Enqvist the first point of the next game, but three loose points follow and it is now Haas who has break points. Ironically, it is the Enqvist forehand, a shot that has served him well throughout, which has starts to unravel at this most crucial part of the match. Another missed forehand give Haas the game and the last break of serve he'll need.

At 5-3, the Haas serve looks impressive, and he closes out the match with an easy hold. Final score Haas defeats Enqvist 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.

Thirty minutes later Haas is sitting in the press room fielding questions. I ask him what he felt was working especially well for him in this tough match, and that will give him confidence moving into the next round?

Haas responds, "I served a few aces. That was pretty confident. Getting some free points on my service games, for every player that's important. If you don't have that, you're always going to run behind. So, I thought that was a very positive thing I take out of it. Moment-wise, I felt good. Keeping the ball in play, trying to play the big points the right way, overall was pretty satisfying. But definitely, I have to improve much more to get to where I was."

Next up for Haas is number ten seed, Paradorn Srichaphan.

Be sure to stop by the Tennis Warehouse tent and say hi.
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