Roger Federer slumped to a shock 2-6 7-6 (8) 6-4 loss to German veteran Tommy Haas at the Stuttgart Open on Wednesday (Thursday) in a disappointing comeback after the 18-times grand-slam champion missed the entire claycourt season.
Haas eventually took the tiebreak, after having a string of set points saved, and carried that form into the deciding set, holding his nerve to serve out for a 6-4 win to seal a deserved win in front of his home crowd.
Federer is now the No. 5 player in the world, though he can rise higher for Wimbledon due to the tournament's special seeding formula that rewards recent grass success. And with Federer clearly needing to shake off the cobwebs, he's now presented with an obvious problem: one can't get match-ready if one doesn't play matches.
Federer and Haas have met in the past and their record goes in favor of the Swiss legend, 13-3, but it has been over three years since they last met. Haas has beaten Federer on grass before, in Halle in the final for his second-ever grass championship.
"Coming here and losing in the semis last year, now the opening round this year, it's not what I was hoping to do", he told the ATP website.
The 35-year-old says he has been working hard on his game during his time away and is now looking forward to finally getting back on the court.
Haas is a better player than his current ranking suggests, but Federer was expected to win with little fuss. A lot of factors came into play: Roger had not played a match in 10 weeks.
Haas controlled the decider, breaking for 3-1 before going on to take the victory on a second match point.
Federer's only other loss this season came against Evgeny Donskoy in Dubai, where he again spurned match points.
"Normally, I kind of didn't believe (I could win) to be honest", said Tommy Haas after stunning Roger Federer in Stuttgart.
Haas has dealt with a great deal of adversity to get this point.
The season has been billed as Haas' farewell tour, but the Indian Wells tournament director was in no mood for early departure.
The German joins compatriot Philipp Kohlschreiber in the next round after he defeated Steve Johnson in three sets.
Frenchman Benoit Paire benefited from claiming 55 percent of his second-serve points to post a 6-4, 6-4 triumph over eighth-seeded Viktor Troicki of Serbia. "Happy to do it one more time here in Stuttgart".