Originally created 02/22/99

Haas beats ailing Courier for first career title



MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Tommy Haas' pleasure in winning his first title wasn't diminished in the least by the fact that it came against an injured Jim Courier.

Haas ended his winless streak in finals Sunday, beating Courier, hobbled with a sprained left foot, 6-4, 6-1 in the St. Jude Indoor tournament championship.

"I'm glad it came against a former No. 1. ... It makes it special," said Haas, who moved from No. 22 into the top 20 in the rankings with his performance this week. Courier currently is ranked 69th but will move into the top 50,

Haas, 20, had played in three previous finals since the start of 1998. He came close to winning at Lyon, France, last year when he held a match point against Alex Corretja before losing.

But Haas has been playing with more power and more consistency since the beginning of the year when he switched rackets from a Head to a Dunlop.

And he had some extra help because Courier sprained his foot in the semifinals. Haas ran Courier when he could and dominated with his serve.

"You can't mess with any players like Jim Courier or any players," Has said. "They're going to fight for the match."

Courier decided to play the final after testing his foot in a morning warmup and consulting with coach Brad Stine and ATP Tour trainer Doug Spreen. Convinced he could not damage his foot further, he agreed to go ahead.

"It's not as good as it needed to be today," Courier said of his foot. "It's not as good as I hoped it would be. ... I couldn't push off. I couldn't move from side to side."

The foot kept Courier from being able to power his serve. His best game was his first service game when he served up four straight aces.

Courier also had three chances to break Haas tied at 3-3 only to see Haas fight him off. Haas forced deuce a third time with a 114 mph ace, then got the advantage with a forehand. Courier hit a forehand long as Haas saved his serve and went up 4-3.

Leading 40-0, Courier doublefaulted three times to let Haas back into the game. Haas stroked a backhand past Courier for the advantage, and Courier again was long as Haas took the first set with the break.

The second set went much quicker as Haas broke Courier twice, including the second off another double fault. Haas served out for his second career victory over Courier.

Still, Courier marked the latest step in his climb back from being ranked 117th last October. He will take a week off before deciding if his foot has healed enough to play at Scottsdale, Ariz.

"I fought hard and enjoyed myself," he said.



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