Tennis's great survivor Tommy Haas began yet another injury comeback on Tuesday after a year out following shoulder surgery.
When the patched-up German had his latest brush with the surgeon's scalpel in June last year, it looked as though the former world number two would be hanging up his racket. But, at the age of 37, Haas is back in action on the grasscourts at the Mercedes Cup in Stuttgart -- 12 months after his right shoulder broke down.
He showed that his game is still intact too, beating Kazakhstan's Mikhail Kukushkin 6-4 7-5 to set up a second-round meeting with Australian Bernard Tomic.
"It was a very special feeling, especially when I didn't know what it would feel like or how you might perform walking out onto court," wildcard Haas, who received a rapturous ovation, told the ATP's website. "There were emotions before and after the match, but it was a great start to get a win."
Haas, who broke both his ankles during the early days of his career and missed most of the 2010 season after hip surgery and all of 2003 following right shoulder surgery, is yet to decide how many tournaments he will enter this year. "The goal is to stay healthy, to get the shoulder better and better to a point where I feel like I am comfortable to play and can focus on trying to win matches, instead of worrying about getting enough speed on my first serve, or how it feels after a set or two," he said.
"These are the things that you don't want to worry about too much when you go out there, as matches often come down to one or two points. I'd like to get some matches to get a feel of how it's like to compete. Then I'll make a decision from there. "Overall, I am really happy. The shoulder is feeling pretty good," he added.
Groth stuns Lopez
Australia's Sam Groth pulled off a second-round shock on Wednesday by recovering from losing the first set to beat third-seed Feliciano Lopez in reaching the quarter-finals.
The 27-year-old from Melbourne, who is ranked 66 in the world, dug deep to claim a 3-6, 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (8/6) win over the Spaniard, who is 14th in the ATP rankings, having held his nerve in a desperately tight third-set.
Groth has the chance to claim another scalp when he faces Serbia's Viktor Troicki in the quarter-finals. Eighth seed Troicki needed three sets and exactly two hours to also reach the last eight as he saw off 18-year-old German Alexander Zverev, the youngest player in the top 100, 6-3, 6-7 (6/8), 6-3.
Monfils eyeing first grass title
Fourth seed Gael Monfils needed two tie-breakers to force his way into the quarter-finals with a win over Austria's Andreas Haider-Maurer. Monfils took nearly an hour and a half to seal his 7-6 (8/6), 7-6 (7/5) win and will now face home favourite Philipp Kohlschreiber for a semi-final place.
Monfils said that he is under pressure from his fitness trainer to win a first grass-court title, particularly as there is a new Mercedes on offer to the winner.
"He's in love with the car. He's been talking about it for two days," said Monfils, who sent down 18 aces. "He said, 'I don't care if you're not a grass-court player, you need to win this car for me! So make the effort!' I've won my first match so hopefully I can keep it going and get this car."
Top seed Rafael Nadal starts his campaign on Thursday with a second-round match against Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis.
(With inputs from Reuters and AFP)