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Haas Makes It Personal in Victory at UCLA

Times Staff Writer

Two titles in Los Angeles? That accomplishment inspired special dedications for two people close to Tommy Haas’ heart Sunday.

His three-set victory against Dmitry Tursunov in the Countrywide Classic final at UCLA gave him one more title here than fellow Germans Boris Becker and Michael Stich and will put him back in the top 20, at No. 17, for the first time since April 2005.

Shortly after his 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 victory, Haas dedicated it to his niece, who was born six weeks ago, and to a friend nearing the end of his life. It was his third title of 2006 and 10th of his career.

For a 28-year-old, Haas has endured much personal hardship. His parents nearly died in a motorcycle accident in 2002, and he missed all of 2003 because of two shoulder surgeries.

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Haas, who after losing the first set fought off two break points early in the second against Tursunov, spoke later in the afternoon about the dedications. He first met Raul Ordonez, of Colombia, when he arrived at Nick Bollettieri’s academy in Bradenton, Fla., at 14.

Ordonez practiced with Haas there as a hitting partner and traveled with him in his early days as a professional.

Haas said that Ordonez has ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, and has about two to three months to live.

“He wants to pass away in Bradenton,” Haas said, adding, “He’s still hoping for a miracle.”

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Until the personal dedications on the court, the post-match trophy ceremony had been decidedly light-hearted, albeit a little off-color, thanks to a giddy Tursunov, the California-based Russian.

“It’s a good experience,” he said of his first ATP Tour final. "... If you tell yourself, ‘It’s the final; if I win this final, I’ll get more prize money, I’ll get more phone numbers,’ then you come out and you’d be shaking.”

Tursunov, who is 0-3 against Haas, can look like a top-10 player and lose his form, all in the same match. This is essentially what happened Sunday.

Haas made an adjustment, moving closer to the baseline because, he said, Tursunov’s shots were difficult to read early. Haas had 12 aces and faced only two break points in the final two sets.

“I think we can see a lot of him in the future,” said Haas, adding that Tursunov is a “really, really tough dark horse at the U.S. Open. People are not going to be happy to see him in the draw the first couple of rounds.”

The same can be said for Haas. Almost any winner at this stage lands on the short list of contenders for the Open, after Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

But Haas has a different outlook after his personal struggles. “After my 15-month break after two surgeries, I said, ‘OK, my first career is over. This is my second one,’ ” he said. “But at the end of the day, I’m still the same guy on the court that sometimes loses his temper and goes crazy and has some weird thoughts in his head. At the same time, I’m maybe more appreciative of being able to play ... and come back and hold up the trophy once in a while.”

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Twins Bob and Mike Bryan of Camarillo had little trouble in winning the doubles final against American Eric Butorac and Jamie Murray of Britain, 6-2, 6-4.... Final statistics on the instant-replay system, used here for the first time: Players were correct in 33 of 66 challenges.


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