Robin Haase: 'There are not more injuries than before'

Robin Haase, the highest-ranked Dutch tennis player and one of the veterans at the ATP 250 Tata Open Maharashtra, opens up to Sportstar on how Chennai Open helped him stage a comeback in 2008, only injuries to top players being reported by the media, his plan for the season and more.

Robin Haase: "Players do get injured as it is an individual sport. It is normal."   -  R. Ragu

Though he is only 30, Robin Haase is one of the senior players in the ongoing Tata Open Maharashtra. The highest-ranked Dutch player, apart from India ace Leander Paes, has seen the ATP 250 event grow by leaps and bounds; for more than a decade.

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On Wednesday, at around 5:30 pm, when Haase beat Nicolas Jarry to advance to the quarterfinals of the tourney, there was no sign of triumph or jubilance on his face.

He knew that the task isn’t over. The two-handed backhand and rallies looked intimidating, but the veteran kept searching for more clarity; probably that’s how a seasoned campaigner functions. It is never too soon, never too late.

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However, we waited outside the players’ locker room — opposite to Court 2 — to have a conversation. To our surprise, he changed in 10 minutes and was ready for the chat. The ATP official had informed him in advance and Haase ensured we don’t miss out on the main draw — Marin Cilic vs Ramkumar Ramanathan — at the centre court.

Excerpts:

Question: That was fast, what do you reckon of the match you played? What’s going in your mind at the moment?

Answer: The body feels good. The weather is nice for tennis. There is a long season ahead and I need to put my plans in place.

What made you come back to India for this tournament?

It is a little better than Doha to start the preparations for the season ahead. On top of that, in the last four years, I had played only once. There are several things to consider when you travel, you look if it fits your schedule to go from here and play another tournament. It is tough because it is a long way to fly. That’s a negative thing.

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But the weather is positive, isn't it?

Of course. That’s a positive here. In Doha, in the evening, it can get really chilly and the temperature may fall to eight or nine degrees. I feel that’s not the best preparation you can have for Australian Open.

But Pune also gets cold in the evening, if not as much as Doha, but there is a dip. After Chennai, do you see that as a threat to the preparation?

Not so much. It is still good weather. But playing at 5 pm and playing in the evening is different. The ball bounces much higher now than during the evening. It is still warm. The first match I played from 5 pm to 7 pm, I was sweating a lot. I know it is not like Chennai, but there is humidity. But it also helps you understand how much you need to keep yourself hydrated.

You also have your doubles partner, Matwe Middelkoop here...

Yes, I knew I could play doubles too with Matwe. The fact that we could also play in Brisbane was in my mind. There are a lot of things you have to consider. It is one of the reasons that I came here, I may play full-time doubles with Matwe in the season ahead.

What are your best memories of Chennai Open?

I remember having a great win against Marcos Baghdatis in 2008. He was the second seed in that edition of the tournament. It helped me stage a comeback after two years of my knee injury. It got me good matches thereon. You always learn. Even if you lose in the first round of a tournament, you take something back with you that can help your career. In the end, you keep learning.

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So what’s the plan for this season? Have you gone through the schedule?

It is pretty clear until Miami. I will play Australia next week, I will play Rotterdam and also, in Dubai. With Matwe, I have to see where our ranking is. If we can still play together on clay, if yes, which tournaments; whether we can go for 500 in Barcelona or the 250 event in Budapest.

What are your thoughts on the Indian players today? You’ve been watching Indian tennis since the days of Leander Paes-Mahesh Bhupathi...

The ones you mentioned have been great doubles players. The ‘singles’ side had been quiet for some time but now, you have a Yuki Bhambri, Ramkumar Ramanathan and Arjun Kadhe. All of them have been hitting the ball well. The other day, Kadhe played well in doubles as well.

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Call it Andy Murray or Novak Djokovic, many of the top tennis players have been picking up injuries. What does one need to do to prolong a career?

There are not more injuries than before. A lot of people think there are more because only the top 10 or top 20 are injured and the press writes about them. But if I am injured or my partner is injured; or if the guys between rank 60 to 80 are injured, nobody will write about it.

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Players do get injured as it is an individual sport. It is normal. It is tough on your joints and muscles. And everyone is getting older. Earlier, players used to call time in their early 30s and now, you have guys continuing at 35. We shouldn’t be surprised that there are injuries but it is also unbelievable that they are playing. As for me, I am travelling with my coach but I have a big team around me. The physical trainer will join me from next week.