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By Chris Oddo
Photo Credit: Rui Vieira/AP
Melanie Oudin - 2012 Birmingham
(June 18, 2012)— Heroes and Zeros is Tennis Now's weekly look at the brightest stars of the game—and the biggest flops. This week we’ll take you for a spin through the first week of that giant green blur known as the grass court season.

Hero: Tommy Haas

Haas 2.0 -- or is it 3.0, or 4.0? -- has officially served notice to the rest of the tour that he is returning to form, and fast. Remember the last time he got healthy? The year was 2009, and Tommy was one point away from serving for a straight set defeat over Roger Federer at the French Open. A few weeks later, Haas went on to win Halle then took out the likes of Marin Cilic and Novak Djokovic en route to the Wimbledon semis.

But injuries struck the hard-luck Haas soon after. Less than a year later, the former world No. 2 had to endure a double-whammy hip-elbow surgery combo that basically took him out of the mix for all of 2010 and 2011.

But Haas appears to be back with a vengeance now, citing his desire to play top-level tennis in front of his daughter, and his goal of reaching the 500-win mark on tour.

He also had a goal of winning his thirteenth ATP title because 13 is his lucky number, but he’s taken care of that as of yesterday.

This week in Halle, buoyed by the support of the German crowd, Haas won his 9th consecutive final and broke a nine-match losing streak against none other than the king of grass, Roger Federer.

“It’s probably up there, if not the sweetest one, considering the injuries, considering not knowing how much longer it would really go or if I can actually get back to a certain level,” said Haas afterwards.

Zero: David Nalbandian

Oh boy. I thought that Michael Llodra was a shoe-in for “Zero of the Year” after his racially tinged tirade against a Korean-American woman at Indian Wells. Not anymore. David Nalbandian’s violent and viral episode yesterday during the Queen’s final has to be the most egregious incidence of physical abuse against an official that I have ever seen.

I just don’t see a way that you can forgive Nalbandian for this. It may have been a momentarily loss of reason for the Argentine, but regardless, Nalbandian’s crime is so egregious, so malicious, so disgustingly brutal, that he simply has to pay a steep price for this. Serena Williams was fined $82,500 for threatening an umpire during an argument in 2009, and most people felt she got off light.

So what do you do with David Nalbandian after he’s just hauled off and karate-kicked an innocent official for no apparent reason, then grabs the mic afterwards and tries to blame the ATP’s decision-making for making him into the bully that he’s become?

Just pathetic. If he plays Wimbledon I’ll be really disappointed. And you should be too.

Hero: Barry MacKay

We’d be remiss if we didn’t pay heed to one of the good guys of our sport, Mr. Barry MacKay, this week. MacKay passed away on Friday, June 15th at the age of 76. The man they called “Big Bear” was known for his tireless promotion of the game and his ability as a player and broadcaster. More importantly, he was known for kindness, and an unyielding love for tennis. MacKay was the American No. 1 in 1960 and made five Davis Cup appearances for the U.S.

After his career, MacKay set up shop in northern California, where he proceeded to take over as promoter as a small tournament in Berkeley that eventually grew to become the SAP Open in San Jose. During MacKay’s time, the event rose to unprecedented popularity.

"That tournament was never the same after he stopped running it," said Brad Gilbert of the SAP Open, in an interview with the San Jose Mercury News. "They are a corporation and he is an individual. That was his baby and he put a great human touch into running it."

Warm and personable, MacKay’s selfless contributions to tennis have made a lasting impression on many.

“No. 1 he was a friend and a wonderful, kind man who was always ready to do anything to help the people of the sport,” said friend and Tennis Hall of Famer Rosie Casals in an interview. “He’s going to be missed.”

Hero: Philipp Kohlschreiber

The German got his first win against Rafael Nadal in nine tries in the Halle quarterfinals in front of his home crowd. Say what you will about Rafa’s form on the grass last week, but Kohlschreiber deserves a lot of credit for this win. He served beautifully and just plain dominated Nadal from the baseline. It’s not very often that you see that.

Hero: Melanie Oudin

After a long precipitous drop in the rankings (she was at 208 starting the week), mighty Melanie Oudin is finally starting to regain her mojo. notched her first career title at the waterlogged AEGON Classic in Birmingham on Monday, and earned a Wimbledon wildcard in the process. With the win, Oudin becomes the lowest-ranked player to win a WTA title since Kim Clijsters won the 2009 US Open. Not bad company to be keeping for a young kid who many (including myself -- guilty!) had begun to count out.

Hero: Daniel Nestor and Max Mirnyi

Nestor and Mirnyi defeated the Bryan Brothers in the Queen’s final Sunday in straight sets and did not face a break point all day. They won 24 of 26 first serve points and finished the deal in 52 minutes for their fourth title of the year. It’s rare that you see Mike and Bob get shellacked like that, especially on grass -- a surface that they love -- and the fact that they did get shellacked like that is a testament to just how hot Nestor and Myrni are playing right now.

Hero: Roger Federer

Roger didn’t play his best tennis in the Halle final, but wasn’t it nice to see him on the surface he has owned throughout his career again?

Hero: The One-Handed Backhand

It’s not often that we get to see the one-hander take center stage in a tennis tournament. Usually it’s a few top players -- Federer is the only one-hander in the top ten, what happens when he retires? -- and a few fringe players in a draw, and nothing more. But this week in Halle, the one-hander dominated. Four One-Handers took the court in the Halle semifinals this week. Federer, Youzhny, Kohlschrieber and Haas. I don’t think we’ll see that again any time soon, but I sure wouldn’t mind.


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