Tommy Haas ousts No. 1 Novak Djokovic at Sony Open

Tommy Haas upset top-ranked Novak Djokovic in straight sets, capping a day in which the thirty-somethings flourished at the Sony Open.

03/27/2013 12:01 AM

03/27/2013 12:57 AM

Age is the rage at the Sony Open.

World No. 18 Tommy Haas, who will turn 35 next week and is the oldest men’s player in the top 50, stunned World No. 1 and two-time reigning Sony Open champion Novak Djokovic 6-2, 6-4, late Tuesday night.

With bundled-up fans on Stadium Court standing and screaming through much of the cold and blustery match, a fired-up Haas pumped both arms skyward after hitting a forehand winner down the line.

“I don’t even know what to say,’’ Haas — the oldest player to beat a No. 1 in the past 30 years — told the crowd, still cheering. “This is crazy. It’s one of those tournaments where everything seemed to click.

“He’s the best player the last two years and it’s unbelievable I won tonight. I don’t know how I did it.’’

Djokovic, 25, entered the Sony with a 14-match winning streak in Key Biscayne and 26-4 career mark. He did not drop a set at the Sony last year, and is one of three players with at least three titles in the tournament. The others: legends Andre Agassi (6) and Pete Sampras (3)

“All the credit to him,’’ Djokovic, of Serbia, said. “He played a great match and he was the better player. As far as I’m concerned, it’s definitely the worst match I’ve played in a long time. I just didn’t feel good on the court.

“It was very cold, and I didn’t find a better solution to come back to the match. I made so many unforced errors from the forehand side.

“He definitely made great tactics, used the serve well and moved around the court well. He was better. I was fighting, trying all the way to the last ball.’’

Djokovic called the crowd in Miami “fantastic’’ and said the fans always give him plenty of support. “Unfortunately, I didn’t give them that third set. I wanted it badly.”

Djokovic had a 22-match winning streak snapped by Juan Martin Del Potro in a three-set semifinal loss March 16 at Indian Wells, his first loss since Oct. 31, 2012.

A back-handed beauty at the net Tuesday gave Haas the service break that put him one game away from the upset at 11:15 p.m. The crowd was in an uproar, with Haas serving for the match.

Haas, the aggressive German who trailed Djokovic 4-2 in career matches entering Tuesday night, reached his first Key Biscayne quarterfinal in his 13th attempt. He will meet No. 11 seed Gilles Simon of France at 9 p.m. Wednesday.

“I had the mentality of going out there and believing it,’’ Haas said of the upset, his second against a No. 1 player since he beat Agassi in 1999 at the Grand Slam Cup in Munich. “It was tough out there with the swirling wind and I’m just really happy and proud of the way I did against such great player who has been dominating the sport for the past couple of years.’’

World No. 1 women’s tennis player Serena Williams treated her “mid-life,’’ 30-something crisis with a white Rolls-Royce.

World No. 5 men’s player David Ferrer, who turns 31 next week, hasn’t had one yet — an age crisis or Rolls-Royce.

Jurgen Melzer? He’s not denying there’s a difference between 31 and 20-something, but he, like the others, is embracing the future.

All three won their daytime matches at the Sony Open, with 24-year-old defending women’s champion Agnieszka Radwanska defeating Belgian Kirsten Flipkens in an exciting night match, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2, to set up a Thursday semifinal with Williams.

Flipkens, 27, made her Stadium Court debut Tuesday at Sony decked out in a bright yellow-and-white tennis dress with a thick yellow bandana and matching yellow eyeglasses. In a cold front that dropped temperatures more than 30 degrees from the 90-degree high earlier in the tournament, Flipkens kept the crowd roaring with her aggressive play. It’s the first time she’s competing in Key Biscayne.

As for the “oldies,” 30 might not be the new 20 in professional tennis, but it’s leaning a lot closer than in the past.

“Hey, I’m 25,’’ said 17th-seeded Querrey, the Sony’s last American male to fall, 6-1, 6-1 to No. 4 seed Tomas Berdych on Tuesday afternoon – marking the first time in the tournament’s history that there is no American in the men’s quarterfinal. “I really hope that I can go for nine more good years. It gives me more motivation and hope that I can have a nice, long career like those guys.’’

There were 22 ATP players ages 30 and older in the main draw of this year’s Sony Open. Ten years ago that number was 12. Twenty years ago? Four.

Two other survivors — Ferrer of Spain and Melzer of Austria — will meet in a 3 p.m. quarterfinal Wednesday on Stadium Court. The last time two over-30 men’s players (Agassi and Todd Martin, both 32 then) were in the quarters at this tournament was in 2003.

“It means a lot to me being in the quarters for sure, having won now nine matches in a row, [including] the Dallas Challenger,’’ said Melzer, who defeated Albert Ramos, 2-6, 6-3, 6-3. “It feels nice to win.’’

Melzer, who turns 32 in May, is ranked 42nd in the world. A lefty, he was ranked as high as No. 8 in 2011, and has reached at least one singles final in seven of the past eight seasons. He is the first Austrian to reach the quarters at the Sony since Tomas Muster won the title in 1997.

Ferrer, a Spaniard, is playing in Key Biscayne for the 11th consecutive year. He has now reached the Sony quarterfinals three consecutive years. He defeated No. 13 seed Kei Nishikori, 6-4, 6-2.

“I think nowadays players get older and we take good care of our bodies and somehow it’s tough for the youngsters to compete with us,’’ Melzer said. “There are so many of us now – Roger [Federer], David Nalbandian, [Lleyton] Hewitt, [Tommy] Haas, me, [Radek] Stepanek, [Jarkko] Nieminen tons of us. It just shows that we can still compete and our bodies are fine. If the body is fine, age doesn’t matter.’’

Ferrer said that his mind, as much as his game, has developed over the years. “Now, he said, “I am in a good moment.’’

Ferrer has a 6-2 edge against Melzer, with the two splitting victories on hard surfaces.

“It’s a difficult matchup for me,’’ Melzer said. “I’m an aggressive player. He likes to counter punch and he’s one of the best guys out there to hit a passing shot. I have to play incredibly well to beat him.’’

On the women’s side, there were 12 who were 30-or-older in the main draw, with Williams defeating fellow 31-year-old Li Na of China, 6-3, 7-6 (7-5) on Tuesday. The other 30-something female still playing Sony singles is 15th-ranked Roberta Vinci, 30, who meets Jelena Jankovic in a 7 p.m. quarterfinal Wednesday.

Williams overcame a 2-5 deficit in the second set, and leaped with joy when her laser-like forehand passing shot bulleted past No. 5 seed Li.

“It was completely unexpected,’’ Williams said of the leap that looked like a cross between a full tuck and a cannon ball dive – her left hand clenched in a victorious fist. “She never quits.’’

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