Suck it up Tommy!
by Sean Randall | May 18th, 2006, 3:47 pm
  • 28 Comments

I had to do a double-take Tuesday when scrolling through the Hamburg scores. According to official ATP results, Tommy Haas lost in the first round to Robin Soderling after he retired in the second set due to a pollen allergy. That’s right, a freaking pollen allergy. That is, a runny nose, watery eyes, etc., you know it.

Think of all the great heroic efforts in sports we’ve seen: Terrell Owens playing the Super Bowl with a cracked leg, Curt Schilling pitching in the MLB playoffs with a stitched-up, still-bleeding ankle and Willis Reed hobbling in the NBA with a broken leg. Those guys sucked it up for themselves, their teams and their fans. That’s sports. That’s competition. Testing the limits. Going against the odds, but not quitting due to something like an allergy, which affects many of us especially this time of year but we get thru it.

“I always have hay fever at this time of the year, when I get over here (to Hamburg),” Haas said after the RET. “But as soon as the match started and I realized that I didn’t feel well, I got a sort of panic attack. All of a sudden nothing worked. I had the feeling that I couldn’t see properly, couldn’t focus properly, my eyes were watery and I couldn’t breathe properly.”

Let’s see if I understand you Tommy. Match started. You were losing. You got a panic attack – likely because you were losing in front of the home folks. Then your eyes started to water, maybe you got a little runny nose which clogged your breathing so you had to quit. Nice effort.

Sorry Tommy, but whatever you had and however serious, you can’t retire due to a pollen allergy. Never ever ever. Not in sports.

Your nose and eyes could be gushing like Niagara Falls but you still have to suck it up and play it out, and Tommy should know better. The guy’s had like 25 shoulder surgeries among other injuries, been thru a family crisis, always gets the worst draws, and now to pull this in of all places in front of his home fans in Germany at an event which had just lost Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Andy Roddick and David Nalbandian. No wonder why they booed your exit.

Tennis players have always got a bum wrap as far as toughness goes, and Tommy’s latest doesn’t isn’t going to change many minds.

Next time Tommy, make sure you take that allergy medicine – they do make that ya know – or just take the entire spring clay season off. And if you do have to play and then need to retire, please call it a collapsed lung or breathing blockage or eye malfunction or clay in the nose or just anything but a pollen allergy. Got it? Thanks.


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28 Comments for Suck it up Tommy!

Mary Says:

are you serious? Did you see the match? Haas could barely breathe. It doesn’t matter what the reason is listed on some website, he was having vision problems and couldn’t breathe. You’re telling a professional athlete to suck it up and play through something like that when, at the time, he’s not sure what’s going on and has been plagued with injuries over the past few years? That’s just ridiculous.


Victor Says:

I agree with above post. It’s true that an “allergy” withdrawal sounds ridiculous, but you must remember that the media always skews things up to their perspective. They need a story, so they belittle the actual situation to make it seem stupid and childish. I also saw the match and Tommy didn’t just have a “runny nose”. This cannot be compared to TO or Reed’s situation as breathing supercedes all other problems such as a broken leg.


r-u-nuts Says:

To Mary and other readers:
The blogger here doesn’t want Tommy to say the truth about his affliction before retiring. Rather, he would have him lie about it and then have lots of fun while skewering Tommy for lying.
This sort of mentality is prevalent now-a-days, it seems. Criticise someone for being honest and blackmail that same person once he starts exhibiting dishonest behaviour. Shame on you, Mr. Randall!


Steven Rahn Says:

If his only problem was watery eyes and sneezing, I would be unsupportive and unsympathetic. But, some allergies can go way beyond that, creating almost asthma-like symptoms. It would be difficult, if not dangerous, to continue play with breathing problems. He was right to stop if that was the case.


Jason Alfrey Says:

Was he rushed to the hospital?? Seems to me that if his breathing was that laborous they probably had the trainer out there with oxygen, right. I do have to say, this is the reason Tommy will not be a great tennis player. Do you think McEnroe, Conners, or Federer would quit because of their allergies. How about Sampras who was barfing his guts out in the U.S. Open semi. That’s why Tommy will never win the Big One. If you know you have a pre-existing condition like allergies do what you have to do to play. Seriously, it’s embarassing, not that he had breathing problems but that he wasn’t prepared.


Kristen Says:

Delighted as I was to see Robin get a win in Hamburg, how dare you criticize this man. His head is screwed on properly, pulling out from a match which could cause him more harm than it’s worth, unlike your glorified American examples.

Keep your eye on the talented German. He’ll be back, living up to your high standards, playing through pain and what not. He’s never been there before, has he!?! Grow a heart, and a brain, Mr Randall.


Tommy's-hot-and-you're-not Says:

From the above it sounds like you’re the one who needs to suck it up Mr Randall. If you can’t breathe and can’t see, you can’t play. And yes he did take allergy medication, the doctor did give him something to help him breathe (something sports legal), he did try to continue and was apparently distraught about the whole situation.
Give the man a break, he has the worst luck ever.


Pete Sampras Says:

Jason is right.

I showed all my guts in 1996 against Alex Corretja at the US Open. Damn, I was wiping vomit off my face just before I hit that second serve ace at 7-7 in the fifth set tiebreak.

I was helped off the court that night and then had to undergo three hours of medical treatment just before I could function again.

Was I worried that I might die? Sure felt like it. Was I scared? Absolutely. Did I think about quitting during the match? No way. I play tennis to win not to retire.

And you would have to carry me off the court in a stretcher for me to quit in that situation.

Tommy’s a terrific player. An incredible talent and a great guy. I’m sure whatever ailment he had he thought was serious, but you really got to want it to be a great champion. Hope he is feeling better.

Oh by the way, I won the US Open that year in case you all forgot!


not-tongue-hanger Says:

Pete Sampras did more damage to tennis than any other number one player. He always hanged his tongue out during the breaks between points. Didn’t anyone teach basic manners to him on how to behave in a public arena. It was a shame to the entire tennis world. Before him, tennis was inspiring, yet much fun. Tommy Haas is great to watch playing tennis, unlike Sampras. Tommy doesn’t induce nausea in the audience by his on-court behaviour like Sampras.


Angie Says:

So maybe the fact that Tommy quit the match because he couldn’t see and couldn’t breathe seems ridiculours to you but who are you to judge him?? Seriously, the guy was shaken up. It’s not serious to you but it was for him and who are you to say it’s not??? And what’s that crap about him never going to be a great player?? He’d been there, remember?


Icecube Says:

He’s a wus!!!

The author is right.


chris Says:

Why does Sampras need to brag? That seems like a problem to me. Maybe a bigger one than calling it quits with asthma.


Ryan Says:

I’m not surprised by this post…as much as I enjoy this website for its superior inside look into the tennis world (particularly the odds and ends section at the end of the daily post), it has a tendency to be aggressive, cocky, condescending (sometimes to players, sometimes to the reader even), and bratty in general. How often do you see one of the writers take an unnecessary jab at a fellow writer from a different site/magazine? This article in particular is wholly unnecessary, as a) players retire from matches, oh, every day and b) while I’m no expert on the subject, I understand that hay fever/allergies can be quite debilitating. Yet once again a Tennis-X writer is too haughty and elite, and must again assert its superiority to…everyone. (You play tennis with hay fever, Mr. Randall.) Can’t you guys understand that you can be “EXTREEEEEEEEME!” and, uh, polite at the same time?


whatever Says:

Pete Sampras did more damage to tennis than any other number one player.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qnk96Fj_YZQ

what was that?


Jason Alfrey Says:

Has anyone thought there might be something about the tongue hanging out? Yes, Pete did it, Micheal Jordan and, oh yeah, so did Boris Becker. My assumption is that,the tongue being a muscle, perhaps if I relax my tongue I might perform better under pressure situations. I don’t know, but if they did it I might give try and see what happens. However, I don’t want to offend anybody.


fair play Says:

Tommy Haas has a history of being *tough*, mentally and physically. Tennis is brutal and Tommy Haas stands out in this sport!
So, it’s uncharacteristic and against his track record to say he is some sort of quiter.
Play tennis with a broken leg? Jeez, you couldn’t beat any of the top 1000 players in the world with a broken leg if you were dumb enough to risk your career trying it.

I say the author is just trying to ply his trade – hyping a story his way as usual for some attention. Put him on the court and let’s see what he’s made of.


fair play Says:

Hey Pete Sampras,
Yes, you’re a great player and mentally tough (as many thought you weren’t in your early years). I would think you would be a little more understanding. I followed you in your early days. You had every injury in the book. You lost tons of ridiculous matches, chocking, injuries, you name it….one time for “shin splints”.
Luckily, you’re body toughened up as you got older.
If anybody should have some compassion, it should be you having gone through a lot of what Tommy Haas has gone through. Many go through what you have and don’t do that well. You are the exception and have cracked through the “injury hurdle”.
So get off your high horse and consider yourself fortunate for your great success of being number one which few can do.
Being “top 10″, or what Tommy has done is still “damn” good considering his tough times.


Pete Sampras Says:

Man, you guys are tough.

Please, I got nothing against Tommy Haas and I do hope he’s feeling better. He’s a great player who beat me on more than one occasion and he’s great for the game.

But to be a champion and to be the best in sports you do need to push yourself that extra mile. That means showing courage and playing through tough times. I did it. T.O. did it. My man Michael Jordan did it.

Speaking of Jordan, read the following story:
http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/espn25/story?page=moments/79

That’s toughness. That’s heart. That’s the will to win. Jordan was on his deathbed, but he got up laced up the Nike’s and showed his stuff (and his tongue).

That’s what champions do. They get up off the mat.

I can’t say if Tommy has those qualities. He has the game, but a lot of players have that. The difference is what’s in his heart and how strong is his will to win.

Tommy’s had a lot of tough times since of late no doubt, but he and only he has to decide how all of that in the past is going to affect him going forward. For his sake I hope he can put it all behind him.

As for bragging, I did somehow win 14 Slams in between all those “ridiculous matches” i lost so if it appears that I am bragging then I think I have earned that right.


fair play Says:

Pete,
No doubt you are great, maybe the “greatest”.
In my opinion, it’s due to one of the best serves ever and an excellent all court game.
You’re the best ever on grass and hard courts, but clay??? Shows the lack of a totally complete game.
In my opinion, greatness depends predominantly on court surface.

But, the point of this discussion isn’t how great you are and what it takes to be great.

It’s about whether Tommy Haas deserves to be labeled so extremely as a “loser” and “quiter”.

Yes, Tommy has a good game, but what makes him high up in the rankings is that he is very tough physically and mentally. He has squeezed out a lot of extra mileage out of relatively average skills *because* of his “heart and ….will to win”.

That’s not my opinion, that’s his track record.
And that’s why it’s so odd to read the above article about how he is some sort of cry baby.
I think there’s more to the story than what appears.
Tommy just don’t quit!


jhurwi Says:

I am not a particular fan of Tommy Haas, but I was glad to see him back playing well this year after so many injuries. I seem to recall some other recent incidents of players withdrawing with breathing problems (Baghdatis and Djokovic, among others) without attracting this sort of hostile comment. As a teacher (academic, not phys. ed.), I am instructed every year about proper procedures for dealing with students with severe allergies, and the school nurse would certainly not allow someone with blurred vision and breathing problems to continue with a strenuous physical activity. I am really disturbed by comments that ridicule players for refusing to play in situations in which they risk injury–they are better judges of their own bodies than I could presume to be, and it’s their career that’s on the line, not mine. Tommy Haas has never done well in tournaments in his native country, and this was a golden opportunity for him, with Federer, Nadal and Nalbaldian all pulling out. I don’t think he would have sacrficed that opportunity lightly.


He'sNotTheRealSampras Says:

It’s just indicative of the state of mind of Sampras, if he really is participating in this discussion.
Coming to the topic itself, Mr. Randall has screwed up big time here. Tommy’s only error of judgement is when he blasted Jim Courier without enough provocation at the Aussie Open this year. He’s one of the good players who make it interesting to watch tennis even when Federer or Nadal are not playing.

If Agassi had kept his head on his shoulders during his twenties, Sampras wouldn’t have had won so many tournaments and certainly not so much recognition. Agassi carried most of the weight in the Sampras-Agassi rivalry.

Three cheers to Agassi!

Sampras, you disappoint us.

Mr. Randall, you’re losing it.

Tommy, get well soon and all the best for the French Open.


Sean Randall Says:

Nice to see all the support for Tommy Haas, even if it is at my expense.

I wrote that column based on the events and words of Tommy. Not off some media report or a website.

Again, read what Tommy said:
“I always have hay fever at this time of the year, when I get over here. I always take pills. Every evening I have a dry mouth and a runny nose, the usual. But I never though much about it, because I have it every year. Since my food poisoning in Indian Wells I have the feeling that I’m not in my best shape, but I didn’t worry about it too much. Now I’ve been in Hamburg for a few days and tried to practice to get far and survive the first round. But as soon as the match started and I realized that I didn’t feel well, I got a sort of panic attack. All of a sudden nothing worked. I had the feeling that I couldn’t see properly, couldn’t focus properly, my eyes were watery and I couldn’t breathe properly. That has never happened to me before on court. So I knew that something was wrong with me. I have to look into that now.”

From what he said above, entering the match he knew he suffered from allergies and he knew he wasn’t playing well. Once the match started (and he was presumably losing) he then began to feel ill, he panicked. Then it spiraled from there – watery eyes, poor focus and poor breathing, etc causing him to retire.

As for the severity of his breathing problems, which many of you point to as being most dangerous, he lumped that issue in with his water eyes and poor vision. Read his quote: “I had the feeling that I couldn’t see properly, couldn’t focus properly, my eyes were watery and I couldn’t breathe properly.”

From that statement, can you really say which of the ailments he mentioned was causing him the most grief? I can’t. If his breathing was that bad he surely would have mentioned it earlier and more than just once, right?

Furthermore if his ailment was so serious why wasn’t he immediately rushed to a hospital? He is the national tennis hero after all, so why risk anything but the best medical care for Tommy if the situation was that dire?

And why wasn’t he given oxygen on court? Why wasn’t he helped off the court? Why didn’t he say to the press “The trainer advised me to stop playing”, unless the trainer never did say that? Why wait a day to get medical tests (“I’ll do a test tomorrow,” he said) done? Why was he allowed to even attend a post match press conference?? And why did the doctors release the official cause for his retirement as a “pollen allergy” instead of “breathing disorder” or “asthma”??

At the end of the day to combat his ailments the medical team gave Tommy a simple allergy tablet. That’s it!

“What have you taken so far against the allergy?” the press asked. Tommy replied: “Something called Claretin.”

A Claritin tablet a simple OTC allergy pill that I took to combat my allergies. Yes, I also get allergies this time of year. That’s what peaked my interest. I tried Claritin but it doesn’t work for my hay fever, instead I take chlortrimiton, which I took earlier today. Like Tommy my eyes water, it can be tough to breathe, my ears ring, I’m tired all day and above all I feel like crap. It’s quite miserable. But I know or at least I’ve been told that it’s not life threatening so I get thru it. I go to work, play tennis, etc, as usual except I have to carry around a handkerchief and eye drops to help out when needed. Not fun.

For those who say you can’t judge what someone else is going thru, that’s true. I really don’t know. But based on the reaction of the medical team when did his retirement appear to be a true medical life/death emergency?

My problem then becomes that he’s playing in the biggest tennis event in his country, in a tournament that desperately needs him to do well in and instead he retires with an ailment that in the end is ultimately treated by an allergy pill.

Many of you then will say, “But Sean, Tommy’s has such bad luck, so many injuries, so many problems, so many setbacks.”

Very true, but could those instances of prior bad luck have played a role in his retirement to Robin Soderling? Is there an underlying connection? Perhaps.

Perhaps it could simply be that Tommy was feeling the pressure of the situation. He did say he had a “sort of panic attack” which can be and usually is caused by stress/anxiety. Just maybe, with the weight of the German tennis world and the organizers on his shoulders, the expectation that he should beat Soderling – a man he beat earlier in the year – despite his recent poor play, all came together at once and caused him to hit the “panic button” right there on center court. He then let everything around him – including his allergies – affect him negatively and he stopped the match.

Just a theory.

Tommy has since pulled out of the World Team Cup, again due to that same pollen allergy, so there’s obviously something wrong somewhere with Tommy. Whether it is really is due to an allergy or maybe something more mental only Tommy knows. I just hope he can get thru it.


Dean Schmidt Says:

You mention how all these greats were able to push through all these massive injuries and still play. However, they were playing a different sport, except for Sampras. Do you honestly think if Sampras was getting completely blown out in a match that he would just keep going if he’s throwing up? I highly doubt it. If a match is important and you’re in it and you get that extra adrenaline, its far easier to compete. Playing in a blowout while sick, who would bother? It’s simply not worth it, even to the high and mighty Sampras, I would imagine.

Tommy is a great player, and I bet if you had 4 things going wrong with you at the same time you probably wouldn’t continue. You seem to downplay his breathing problem, when combatting fatigue is one of the most important steps in tennis. Fighting even a little to get breath costs a lot of energy, and in high caliber tennis I can’t imagine that would work well. Stress would also cause any symptoms to be magnified, as anyone gets sick much easier when they have lots of stress on them. Don’t make these heroes out to be something they’re not. They stuck with it when it was close. Lots of guts in that…nobody wants to call it quits when you’re in the lead. And don’t say Tommy’s a wuss. I don’t see you within the top 25 of anything, let alone something as difficult as tennis.


NFL Fan Says:

Have any of you people ever watched NFL football?

Do you know how many of the players that play are injured on gameday? Just about all them, in some form or another. And if they are not injured they will be.

Broken bones, ankle sprains, dislocated shoulders, cracked ribs you name it. They got it AND they play. Trouble breathing? Hello, that usually happens when you play sports. When I sprint a mile at the end I usually am gasping for air. Duh! How about losing your breath after 300 pound lineman knocks the wind out of you then you have to get up within 30 second and do it again. Now that’s trouble.

Is Tommy also worried about “sweating.”

And spare me the “pollen allergy is far worse then a busted leg” garbage. That’s total bullshit.

Small wonder why there are few young American stars men or women on the horizon because all the kids are playing sports in which their heroes show up and earn their living and gain respect.

Donovan McNabb played half the season this year with a sports hernia – look that up. Terrell Owens with a broken leg last year. Countless players play with broken fingers and concussions, but they still go out and play on Sunday risking life and possible career-ending injury. Why do they do it? Because of desire, because of heart, because they want to win and for many because it’s their job.

Most NFL and other sports players understand that they are privileged and lucky enough to have opportunity to make a living and a very nice one at that playing a kids game. They understand that the fans pay good money (and ultimately their salary) to see them play and therefore they reward us by making every effort to go out and do their best even if it means further injury.

All the greats do it, and when they do – like Michael Jordan – it’s truly inspirational.

Do the fans in Hamburg feel that way about Tommy? Ha.

Dean Schmidt: I hope you never coach anyone in sports and I hope you are not American. According to you it’s perfectly okay to give up with injury if you’re down a set and losing badly. What a joke you are. An embarrassment.

I don’t watch a lot of tennis, but I do remember Sampras barfing during the Open that year. That was incredible that he continued and I totally respect him for doing it. I also remember Boris Becker and the way he would scrap up his knee diving for balls. Was he ever worried that he may have contracted a life-threatening infection with that open wound?

Damn, all you people – author included – except for Pete really need to get a grip. It’s f’ing tennis. It’s a pollen allergy. Give me a break and good luck to your sport.


NFL-hater Says:

Whoa! You’re comparing American Football to Tennis?!? You’re comparing a one-country sport to an olympic sport? NFL is more a pig fight than a sport. If they were really such tough guys, why are they wearing all that armour (rugby anyone?)? If it’s really such a heroic sport why is it so abhorred, world over, unlike baseball?

The NFL players, do they undergo drug tests like tennis players do?

Part of the problem Tommy had to face could have been restrictions on drug use by the ATP. Some anti-allergy drugs may have been banned for tennis players.


jason2 Says:

1. All of the examples are of superbowls, world series, or grand slams. this was a warm up tournament!
2. those were all team sports. TO only had to make some catches. if he had to block a lineman, it wouldn’t have worked. if Shilling had to run, he would have had to leave the game. to even compete at a world class level, you have to be in perfect condition or else you will be wiped off the court.


Dean Says:

NFL Fan, I am an American, and I actually take little pride in the fact because as a whole Americans think they’re better than the rest, and generally have a bad attitude towards a lot of things. I like all sorts of sports, from Tennis, Baseball, and Hockey, and quite frankly, I don’t see how you have room to talk. You talk of all these people and how awesome they are, and I admit it takes a lot of heart to play through broken bones. It also requires a lot of stupidity, risking further injury and potential loss of use in that limb in case of further injury. I think it takes 0 balls on your part to talk about all these greats of football. I bet if you broke your leg, you’d probably be in so much pain you’d cry. I can gaurantee that you would not play at a level even suitable to playing in a backyard game, let alone at a professional level that you have never reached.

Am I happy that Tommy withdrew from the match? Not at all. It upsets me everytime someone withdraws from a match because it ruins the way its played. Do I think someone should try their hardest to play through to the end and give it their best? Of course. I’m not even saying Tommy shouldn’t have been able to finish the match. Hell, he won 3 games from a top 60 I believe player when he obviously wasn’t playing well at all. You obviously don’t seem to understand the fatigue factor in tennis, and fatigue is everything. Once you get fatigued, you not only can’t run as well to get to the ball, you can’t think as well to try and win the match tactically. Once you lose one or both, it’s over. If I ever did become a coach, I would have a hard time with somebody withdrawing from a match, because at that level, its unacceptable, even if you’re losing 6-0 3-0. But let’s face it, if you can’t play, you can’t play. The football rejects can get injured long time and not worry about it because they still get their pay. But in Tennis, you get payed for performance and by winning tournaments, which you can’t do if you string yourself out and injure yourself unnecassarily. There is no pay in tennis for sitting on your couch. Results are all that matter, and if by resting you give yourself a better chance in the future, I take no qualms in that. Everyone seems to have forgotten that Nadal and Federer pulled out of this match with fatigue *gasp*. So threatening. To think the top 1 and 2 would pull out of a tournament for a little thing like fatigue….but no one seems to roast them about that. How is that any different than hay fever? The only difference is Tommy made the effort in the first place, while Federer and Nadal made no effort for this tournament, they didnt even try. And according to you, not trying means that you are convicted to death by crucifixion by injured football players. I know I won’t change your mind, and I don’t care to, but I’m defending my position because it’s my right and I know you’d think you won if I didn’t respond.


googlevoice Says:

Nadal just retired after splitting sets with Hewitt at the Stella Artois championships. Maybe he read this thread and is supporting Haas, letting us know it’s okay to quit when you’re hurting.

Nadal would have gained nothing and perhaps lose the chance to play Wimbledon if he went on to finish the match with the shoulder injury. Sometimes you just have to suck it up and throw in the towel.

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