Thomas Muster
Thomas Muster
Thomas Muster
Thomas Muster
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  • In an era of Spanish clay kings, Thomas Muster was pre-eminent. At his dominant best from the baseline, the barrel-chested Austrian harnessed tremendous balance off both wings to wear down his rivals with heavy topspin body blows. He ranks as one of the best clay-courters of all time. 

    On 1 April 1989, in his fifth season as a pro, Muster found himself in hospital, just two hours after he had just come back from two sets down to beat World No. 13 Yannick Noah to reach the Miami final. His career had been on an upward trajectory, until he was the victim of a drunk driver – 37-year-old Norman Sobie – who had severed cruciate and side ligaments in his left knee.

    Muster flew back to Vienna for surgery, thinking he would make a quick recovery. Doctors weren’t so sure. The 22 year old started training almost immediately. He was famously pictured hitting tennis balls in a special chair, with his left leg in a cast. Six months later, he returned and went onto be named the ATP’s Comeback Player of the Year. The greatest Austrian player in tennis history went onto win 45 titles, including 1995 Roland Garros. In 1996, he ranked World No. 1 for six weeks.

    Muster won eight ATP Masters Series titles on three different surfaces, including three titles apiece at Monte-Carlo and Rome. He won 24 straight clay-court finals between May 1990 and July 1995. In 1993, he lifted seven trophies and won 55 of his 65 matches on red dirt. Two years later, he was crowned the “King of Clay” when he won 40 consecutive clay-court matches – the longest winning streak on the surface since Bjorn Borg had won 46 between 1977-1979. Muster beat Michael Chang 7-5, 6-2, 6-4, on his 10th attempt in Paris, to capture his lone major title. He compiled a 65-2 record on clay and won a record 12 tournaments in 1995. Roger Federer achieved the feat in 2004.

    Muster, 5’11”, played his last professional match in May 1999, moved to Queensland, Australia, and ballooned to 218lbs. The 1990 and 1995 Austrian Sportsman of the Year never made a formal retirement announcement, but he made occasional appearances on the ATP Champions Tour and was his nation’s Davis Cup captain, until, 11 years after his Roland Garros farewell, he staged a comeback. After undergoing a punishing fitness regime, working out for up to seven hours per day, he weighed 167lbs – the same he had weighed aged 22. In November 2011 at Vienna, he said farewell to tennis.

    An astute businessman, Muster established fashion label “Toms” in 2003. As a wine-lover, he teamed up with tennis-loving vintner Manfred Tement to cultivate eight hectares of land and put out their first joint Toms Hochkittenberg wine in 2005.

    MAJOR TITLES (1) - French 1995.

    DAVIS CUP – 1984-91, 94-97; 36-8 singles, 9-10 doubles.

    SINGLES RECORD IN THE MAJORS – Australian (23-11), French (32-13), Wimbledon (0-4), US (22-10).

    Bio: James Buddell 

    Muster was widely considered his generation’s ‘King Of Clay, and was one of fittest players during his career on Tour… it paid off in 1995 when he claimed the Roland Garros title and reached No. 1 in February of 1996, becoming the second oldest player to attain the ranking (Newcombe).

    As a 16 year old in 1984, Muster won his first tour-level match in Kitzbuehel (d. Borowiak)… also won his opening match in Vienna later that year (d. Doyle)… enjoyed junior success in 1985, finishing runner-up in the coveted Orange Bowl… showed his proficiency on clay, reaching the junior singles final at Roland Garros in May… reached Top 100 in September of ’85 after semi-final showing in Palermo… won first Grand Slam match at Roland Garros in 1986 (d. No. 28 Wilkison) and followed it up shortly after with first tour level title at Hilversum on clay (d. Hlasek)… reached R32 at Roland Garros and US Open in 1987… won four titles in 1988, all on outdoor clay.

    Major breakthrough came at 1989 Australian Open, where he reached the SF, losing to Ivan Lendl… reached final at Key Biscayne in March, rallying from two sets down to defeat No. 13 Yannick Noah in the SF… was struck by a drunk driver on the eve of the final, and was forced to default in order to fly back to Vienna to undergo surgery… his result in Miami enabled Muster to become the first Austrian to break into the Top 10… he had a special chair designed so he could practise hitting balls after his knee surgery… six months later, the Austrian returned to the tour, reaching the quarter-finals in Barcelona (l. Skoff).

    He was awarded ATP Tour Comeback Player of the Year award in 1990, reaching the semi-finals at Roland Garros and winning three titles, including his first ATP World Tour Masters Series crown in Rome, and maiden hard court title in Adelaide… named Austrian Sportsman of the Year… continued to show clay court dexterity over next few years, highlighted by seven titles in 1993… in 1995, won first Grand Slam title at Roland Garros and had a 40 match win streak on clay from February through June… claimed 12 titles in 14 finals, won 12 matches against Top 10 opponents and was named Austrian Sportsman of the Year for a second time.

    His clay court dominance continued in 1996, when he compiled a 46-3 record, winning seven titles, including two ATP Masters Series events (Monte-Carlo and Rome)… reached No. 1 on 12 February, becoming the 13th player to achieve the ranking… had best hard-court results in 1997, with titles in Dubai and Key Biscayne, and a semi-final run at the Australian Open… struggled on clay, going 9-9… appeared in fourth ATP Tour World Championship… career winded down in 1998 and 1999, with the Austrian reaching his 55th final in Estoril (l. Berasategui) in April of ‘98. Closed out career with opening-round loss at Roland Garros in 1999 to Nicolas Lapentti.

    In his spare time, Muster enjoys photography and shoots the occasional tennis match… also likes abstract art and painting, and has a musical talent for drums… has one child, Christian, born in 2001… started a fashion label in 2003, ‘TOMS’, which debuted its first summer collection in Vienna two years later… his entrepreneurial spirit saw the Austrian expand his brand into the wine and water industries in 2005… has a license to fly helicopters... Muster currently competes on the ATP Champions Tour.


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