Whether they represent an important career transition or the long recovery from a trying period in his personal life, the time, July, and the place, Los Angeles, have become significant markers for Tommy Haas.
He is rejoining the men's tennis tour for the first time since the French Open, having been with his parents, Peter and Brigitte, who were involved in a serious motorcycle accident in Sarasota, Fla., on June 8. Peter had been in a coma for 2 1/2 weeks and nearly lost his right leg. Brigitte's injuries were not life-threatening, but she has been incapacitated after a truck collided with the Harley-Davidson they were riding.
They recovered enough to be moved to a rehabilitation center in Germany, and are improving enough for Haas to feel comfortable making his return to the circuit in the Mercedes-Benz Cup at UCLA, which starts Monday.
His parents' accident has put life and sports into perspective for the 24-year-old Haas, whose powerful baseline game had taken him to a career-high No. 2 world ranking in the spring, when he lost in the Italian Open final to Andre Agassi.
Earlier this year, he nearly made his first Grand Slam final, falling to Marat Safin in five sets in the semifinals of the Australian Open when Safin revived after a rain delay.
"You really start thinking about other things again," Haas said Friday in a telephone interview from Germany. "Obviously, tennis was always my No. 1 priority and it will be again someday. But when something like this happens, something really unexpected, it's your parents. You only have one set of parents."
His father was the one who started Tommy playing at age 4. Peter Haas grew up in Austria, was once a European judo champion and is a former classmate of Arnold Schwarzenegger. The doctors told Tommy Haas that his father's high level of fitness probably helped save his right leg.
"He had a little bit of a brain injury," Haas said, "so his memory is not really good at the moment. But he can talk a little bit. Sometimes he's back to normal, then he gets tired again and he's pretty far off from reality. They say that's normal.
"He has a pretty good chance to come back to where he left off. But nobody really knows that.... It's going to be a long process. The doctors here are saying he has a good chance to be walking again."
Haas was gratified by the support he received from the tennis world. The ATP and WTA tours sent flowers, as did many of his fellow pros. Schwarzenegger called several times as well.
Haas had heard stories about his father and Arnold when they were youngsters in Austria.
"It's great to see how he's progressed in his life and what he's accomplished," Haas said of Schwarzenegger. "I got to meet him at the Planet Hollywood opening in Munich in '98. Since then I've talked to him on the phone a couple of times. For some reason, if you just know there's a celebrity on the other phone you always start getting nervous. It's quite funny. You don't know what to say."
He's gotten over that nervousness and can chuckle about their conversations.
"He's got this Austrian accent which is quite funny and every time we do talk on the phone, it's this English, German, Austrian mix," Haas said. "He was really nice and supportive with what happened to my parents. He called three or five times. He's a person who has a good heart."
Last year, the action star surprised Haas by showing up to watch him play in the UCLA tournament, where he reached the quarterfinals, losing to Gustavo Kuerten. Los Angeles was also where Haas reunited with his former coach, David "Red" Ayme, last year.
"I changed coaches because every player in every sport--you have agents, you have family members, you have other coaches, always talking in your back. If you didn't have a couple of good weeks, or a couple of good months, they always try to blame [someone]," Haas said.
"Another reason is to see what else is out there, if another coach could help me or give me something that I might be missing. They were all good coaches but not right for me. I feel like Red knows me like no other coach does. There's a good chemistry between us.
"I'm not very easy to understand sometimes, and he seems to understand those situations. He always seems to have the right answer."
The renewed partnership showed immediate results. Haas reached the semifinals in Montreal last summer, defeated Pete Sampras to win Long Island, took eventual champion Lleyton Hewitt to four sets in the fourth round of the U.S. Open and won consecutive titles in the fall at Vienna and Stuttgart, Germany.
Later on, Haas said he will look back on those previous successes, as well as his rise to No. 2 in the world this spring. (Haas is currently No. 3).
More importantly, there will be something else to treasure in the Haas house when his parents return home.
"I'm sure at the end of the year when everything is back in perspective, and the year is over, and I've got a couple of weeks and my parents are back on their feet, we're going to probably celebrate and enjoy the time again," Haas said.