Tennis: Age, injury, private heartbreak spur on Haas

Tommy Haas was once number two in the rankings and had the world at his feet, until a depressing series of injuries and operations sent his career into a tailspin.

But the 35-year-old German is far from bitter.

On the contrary, he is revelling in his second chance, becoming the third oldest man in history to reach the French Open quarter-finals.

He is also keeping his achievements in perspective knowing that despite his injury-plagued past, he has little to complain about having once seen his parents battle for their lives following an horrific motorcycle crash.

The German 12th seed is playing in his 52nd Grand Slam -- only Roger Federer and Lleyton Hewitt amongst active players have featured in more.

But he was cheated out of at least two years of his career with hip and shoulder trouble between 2010 and 2011, which followed missing the entire 2003 campaign as he twice underwent shoulder surgery.

In 2004, his world ranking even plummeted to 1,086.

Private tragedy almost struck 10 years ago when his parents, Peter and Brigitte, were involved in a serious motorcycle accident in Florida which left his father in a coma for the best part of three weeks.

His mother was in intensive care for four days.

"When you have some injuries and you never know which way the injuries might go and then when you have surgery the first time, you realize that's tough and you start to play with the idea, like, oh, I hope I can go back because shoulder surgery is blah, blah, blah," said Haas.

"But when your parents have a bad motorcycle accident and you don't know if they're going to be okay or not, that's a different story.

"You can't compare a shoulder or hip repair to life threatening situations. So that was obviously part of the toughest part in my life in general. But they're fine. They're still here and that's all that matters. They can continue to suffer in front of the TV watching me play."

They didn't need to suffer too much on Monday as Haas became the oldest man since 1971 to reach the last eight with a 6-1, 6-1, 6-3 in over Mikhail Youzhny.

Florida-based Haas is also the oldest man to make the quarters at any Grand Slam since Andre Agassi at the 2005 US Open.

He is one of four players over 30 in the quarter-finals along with Federer, David Ferrer and Tommy Robredo.

"I think we all just are smarter about how we train, about how we eat, about how we do recovery. The physical and fitness areas have improved a lot in sports in general. I think that's why you see maybe more people also in the early, mid-30s doing well."

Haas, the first German in the Roland Garros quarter-finals since Michael Stich and Bernd Karbacher in 1996, won his 14th career title in Munich on the eve of the French Open.

But in an indication of his topsy-turvy career, the world number 14 last year had to qualify to make the main draw in Paris.

"I won't be doing this for another five to ten years. At the time when I was maybe playing some of my best tennis maybe back in end of '01 and '02, I was in my peak maybe at 23, 24," he added.

"Now it's more like being happy to be still a part of it. I have a family now. My daughter is with me a lot of the times, which is great. So I have a lot of balance."

Next up for Haas is a quarter-final clash with world number one Novak Djokovic, against whom he trails 4-3 in career meetings.