Tennis pro Tommy Haas was hired on Friday as tournament director of the BNP Paribas Open, replacing Raymond Moore, who quit in March after making controversial comments about female players.
Haas’ hiring must be approved by the ATP and WTA tours, which play at the combined $7 million, two-week event every March in the Southern California desert.
Haas has been ranked as high as No. 2 in the world. The 38-year-old German has won 15 ATP Tour titles, reached the semifinals of the Australian Open three times and Wimbledon once, and won a silver medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. His career has been stalled by injury since he had shoulder surgery two years ago and right foot surgery six weeks ago.
“I’m not completely retired,” he said on a conference call, “but there’s a chance if my body doesn’t completely allow me to come back I might be done.”
Haas has a 25-13 record at Indian Wells, reaching the quarterfinals in 2007 and ‘08. He already spends time with his fiancee in Los Angeles, a two-hour drive from the tournament.
“There’s a very strong team that is in place. My role is coming in and keep making sure the tournament keeps going in the direction we want it to go,” Haas said. “With my knowledge of the game, I feel like I can have some really good ideas to keep some good stuff going out there.”
Haas is friendly with tournament owner Larry Ellison, a billionaire and co-founder of Oracle Corp. Haas said he first became interested last fall after Steve Simon left as tourney director to become CEO of the WTA Tour.
“I reached out to Raymond Moore out of curiosity and the love of Indian Wells to find out about the position,” he said.
Haas received an early endorsement from Novak Djokovic, the world’s top-ranked men’s player.
“It’s a perfect solution for the Indian Wells tournament, considering the great relationship Tommy has with Larry Ellison,” Djokovic said from the French Open. “I’m sure he’s very eager to contribute in a way to the growth of that tournament that is already setting up a very high standard in the integrity of ATP events.”
Moore’s comments on the final day of this year’s event overshadowed the title matches, and drew the ire of top-ranked Serena Williams and women’s winner Victoria Azarenka and were criticised on social media.
“In my next life when I come back I want to be someone in the WTA because they ride on the coattails of the men. They don’t make any decisions and they are lucky. They are very, very lucky,” Moore said then. “If I was a lady player, I’d go down every night on my knees and thank God that Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal were born, because they have carried this sport.”
Steve Birdwell, the tournament’s chief operating officer, said the fallout from Moore’s comments “has had a little bit of heavy weight” and created “a tough time” for the event staff.
He said Haas was the right person to replace Moore, a 69-year-old former touring pro from South Africa who had been associated with the tournament for 29 years.
“What we kept saying is he’s a great guy, everyone loves him, he’s in the sport, he’s got a big heart,” Birdwell said of Haas. “That’s what we were looking for.”
Haas said he would work to listen to the women’s players when they return to Indian Wells.
“We’re going to make sure they feel welcome. We need the women like always,” he said. “I have good relationships with former and current WTA players.”
Haas said Moore’s comments were “very, very unfortunate, but it shouldn’t be a cloud over this event by any means.”
Moore later apologised, saying his comments “were in extremely poor taste and erroneous.”