Rebuilt Haas challenges Djokovic


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The Independent Online

Novak Djokovic may have lost his first match of the year earlier this month but the Serb is showing no signs of loosening his grip on the world No 1 ranking. Djokovic is chasing a third successive Miami Masters title this weekend and has dropped only seven games so far in reaching the fourth round.

His next challenge, however, could be a different proposition. Djokovic faces the veteran Tommy Haas, who has been continuing his remarkable comeback from the latest in a succession of injuries. The 34-year-old German, who reached a career-high No 2 in the world rankings 11 years ago, is back up to No 18 and playing with much of his old self-belief.

Less than two years ago Haas did not even have a world ranking after a lengthy spell on the sidelines. By the start of last year he was still outside the world’s top 200, but such was his form on his return that he was named Comeback Player of the Year for 2012 by the Association of Tennis Professionals.

Djokovic said he had huge respect for Haas, who beat the Ukrainian Alexandr Dolgopolov 6-3, 6-2 to reach the last 16. Haas defeated Djokovic twice in the summer of 2009, although he has lost their four other meetings. “He’s an all-round player,” Djokovic said. “He’s very talented and he’s probably one of the most experienced active players in the world now. He can play equally well on any surface. Today in windy conditions I watched his match. He played a terrific match. You can always expect Tommy to fight and try his best, so I know what to  expect. It’s going to be a tough match and hopefully I can be fit to play my best.”

Djokovic, who beat Lukas Rosol for the loss of only one game in his opening match, earned his place in the fourth round with a comprehensive 6-2, 6-4 victory over India’s Somdev Devvarman, which he completed in just 69 minutes in tricky conditions, with a stiff breeze blowing.

“It was very difficult to get into any rhythm because you couldn’t really serve at 100 per cent and you had to go more for precision,” Djokovic said. “You had to put in twice as much effort in your step adjustments because of the windy conditions. All in all, I’m just happy to get through a rough day.”

Djokovic is seeded to meet David Ferrer in the semi-finals. The Spaniard reached the fourth round by beating Italy’s Fabio Fognini 6-1, 7-5 and will now face Japan’s Kei Nishikori, a  6-2, 7-5 winner over the Belgian  Xavier Malisse.