Both the big names and the not-so well known names are featuring on court this week in Newport. Ivo Karlovic, the No. 2 seed and 2014 finalist, has earned a formidable reputation on grass this season, having played through to the fourth round at Wimbledon while wracking up 156 aces. Karlovic also owns the fastest serve, which was recorded in 2011 in a Davis Cup tie. He is the tallest man on the face of the earth playing tennis at 6-foot-11.
But, at 37, he is not the oldest.
Tommy Haas takes that honor, at 38. Today in Newport, his much younger opponent, Adrian Mannarino (No. 5), finished him off — completing their two-day match 7-6(5), 6-7(1), 6-4.
“I’m in a better place than I was two months ago,” Haas began, referring to his shoulder which was surgically repaired in June of 2014. “You know, you’re your biggest critic. But with work and playing and patience, plus a little bit of hope that it gets back to another level.
Haas played his first match at Stuttgart in June, after rehabbing his shoulder, where he defeated Mikhail Kukushkin. After the win, he told the ATP, “The positive thing was that I felt ready to go out there and finally see where I am at.”
Mannarino and Haas split the first two sets of their match yesterday, but had to quit due to darkness. Coming out this afternoon to play one set presented minor problems for the German, but, again, he seems to be his own worse critic.
“Sometimes the strokes and the rhythm of things don’t do what you want. So that’s a problem” Haas said. “I didn’t get broken throughout the whole match until 1-all in the third. Then coming back the next day. You’re warmed up and everything, but the serves there but maybe you miss a return by about two inches. I look at those things rather than where my shoulder is at.”
Losing a tight match like this one also affects Haas mentally — perhaps more so than physically.
“Working hard and coming here and losing a tight match like this one is tough and mentally draining,” he said.
Haas’s is well known for his temper during matches. That hasn’t changed, or waned, with age. He carried on with his coaches today — just like he’s done for his entire career.
“You know you’re playing the big points and you don’t win them, and you get frustrated when you don’t win them. So, I have a little talk with my coach so he has a few reminders for next time,” Haas added. “But staying calm all the time is not in my blood.”
Haas has made it known that he wants to leave the game on his terms, not according to his body. The next few weeks and months will tell the tale of how long he can realistically extend his career.
“We’ll see if it’s worth it to go for a full season in 2016, and go from there,” he said.
On the opposite end of the age spectrum is Jared Donaldson — the youngest player in the main draw. He is also a native of Rhode Island and the biggest fan favorite here.
Ranked No. 166, the 18-year-old played a disappointing match today, losing quickly to Aussie John Patrick-Smith, 6-3, 6-1.
“Basically, ‘What am I doing?’” Donaldson said, when asked what he was thinking between points. “I hit six hours a day in practice. To not be able to put balls in the court was extremely frustrating. Then I tried to go back to what my coach is telling me. Move my feet. Keep good racquet-head speed. Play aggressive. Keep going for your shots; and, I wasn’t able to do it.”
At 4-0 in the first set, Donaldson mounted a fine comeback. He looked as if he’d swallowed the golden elixir. He displayed touch, thoughtful tactics, and his serve worked. But it didn’t stay with him in the second set.
“Some days you have it some you don’t,” Donaldson said, his arms crossed on his chest. “I didn’t serve as well as I’d like. Serving against someone with a good serve like J.P., it’s going to be pretty tough if you only hold serve like three times.”
Donaldson served at 47 percent, earning 46 percent of points on his first serve and 44 percent on his second.
“To go out there today and only hold serve three times on grass is pathetic,” Donaldson said.
Last summer, Donaldson faced Gael Monfils in the first round of the U.S. Open as a wild card. The reliability of his serve that day was low, like today. Donaldson decided to visit Taylor Dent — a player who, in his day, could strike some stinging serves. The two got along well and continue to work together at Dent’s Tennis Academy in California, as Donaldson confirmed in press today.
“Obviously it’s good to win one match at tour level,” Donaldson began. “But, honestly, I don’t play tennis to win one match. I don’t play to have one good result. Obviously at this level, winning any tournament is hard. I think I put, I don’t know, not that many first serves in…47 percent is horrible. That’s the most disappointing part. And it’s been that way for awhile. And the fact that I can’t fix it is disappointing.”
Just four years older than Donaldson, American Jack Sock has comfortably improved his game since hip surgery in December. He won his first tour title in Houston — on clay of all things — for a man raised on good-old American hard court.
With four of the top-10 seeds out of the draw here, Sock, seeded fourth, moved to the quarterfinals for the second consecutive year, defeating Lukas Lacko, 3-6, 7-6(4), 6-4.