IW boss Tommy Haas issues statement that perfectly sums up Novak Djokovic's greatness

Haas shares his expectation for Djokovic and Aryna Sabalenka in Indian Wells this year.

by Dzevad Mesic
IW boss Tommy Haas issues statement that perfectly sums up Novak Djokovic's greatness
© Getty Images Sport - Clive Brunskill

Indian Wells tournament director Tommy Haas absolutely expects Novak Djokovic to be a major contender for the title in the desert and summed up the Serb's astonishing success by stating that people look at it as "failure" whenever the world No. 1 leaves a tournament without the title. 

Djokovic, the first man with 24 Grand Slams in tennis history, took a break after the Australian Open but he is ready to return to action in the opening Masters tournament of the year in Indian Wells. This year, Djokovic is playing in the desert for the first time since 2019 and the reasons behind that are well-known as the 36-year-old missed the last two Indian Wells editions because he wasn't allowed to enter the United States as an unvaccinated foreigner.

Before the pandemic and vaccine drama, Djokovic made 14 consecutive appearances in Indian Wells. In those 14 appearances, Djokovic enjoyed huge success as made six finals and won five titles in the desert. 

Haas, a former four-time Grand Slam semifinalist and world No. 2, has no doubt that Djokovic will be among the top favorites for the title in his Indian Wells return. For Djokovic, this will be his first tournament since he lost to Jannik Sinner in the Australian Open semifinal. 

“Djokovic has had such success there, he’s coming back. I feel like every time he doesn’t win a tournament, we all look at it as a failure, right? And I hate to use that word anyway,” Haas told Eurosport.

“But even the semis at the Australian Open, we all look at it like, ‘Oh, he lost in the semis, he didn’t win the Australian Open.’ But you know how many people of players would love to get to a semifinal one time.

“It’s really outrageous, so you can never count him out. He’s obviously always gonna be a favorite and he’s always gonna look at himself as like, the favorite to win the title.”

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic© Getty Images Sport - Matthew Stockman

Haas on Aryna Sabalenka's Indian Wells chances 

After naming Djokovic as a favorite in the men's tournament, Haas also declared world No. 2 Sabalenka as a favorite for the title in the women's tournament.

When 25-year-old Sabalenka kicks off her 2024 Indian Wells campaign, she will officially be launching her fifth appearance in the desert. After losing in the Indian Wells third round in her debut in 2018, Sabalenka exited the tournament in the round-of-16 the following year and also lost in the second round in 2022. 

After a few early exits in Indian Wells, Sabaleka made her best Indian Wells run last year - when she made the final before losing to Elena Rybakina in tight two sets 6-7 (11) 4-6. 

Considering that Sabalenka successfully defended her Australian Open title in January and that she is 11-2 in 2024, Haas is backing the Belarusian for a deep Indian Wells run.

“On the women’s side, Sabalenka, you know, she has such a big, powerful game. Gives her a little bit more time sometimes in Indian Wells too,” Haas said.

“But she moves well, she’s feeling obviously very, very good about her game — defending her title at the Australian Open. So I kind of give her the edge also going in, no matter what happens the next couple of weeks.”

Aryna Sabalenka
Aryna Sabalenka© Getty Images Sport - Matthew Stockman

Haas backs Djokovic, Sabalenka for strong Indian Wells runs

After failing in his bid to win his 11th Australian Open title, Djokovic decided not to play any tournaments in February and instead try to recover emotionally and physically before returning to action. Since Djokovic wasn't competing anywhere and wasn't busy, he decided to come to Indian Wells early as he has been in the desert for 10 days now. 

When Djokovic arrived in Indian Wells, he said he was "way too long" absent from the tournament before recounting his first title in 2008 and some other big wins in the desert.

"The first time I won the title in Indian Wells, it was one of the greatest titles of my career at that point. I remember I played Mardy Fish in the finals," Djokovic said after arriving in Indian Wells. 

"I was fortunate to win the tournament another four times and played some epic matches in the finals against [Roger] Federer and [Rafael] Nadal and many of the great players in that era. I'm really looking forward to coming back."

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic© Getty Images Sport - Matthew Stockman

It remains to be seen if Djokovic can make a triumphant return in Indian Wells and if Sabalenka can lift her first title in the desert.

Novak Djokovic Aryna Sabalenka Indian Wells