Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Veteran Muster continues dismal comeback with loss in Rome

Former world number 1, Thomas Muster, suffered his 11th loss in 12 matches since he shocked the world with news of his comeback last June.

The Austrian, who retired from the game 12 years ago was playing his third challenger event of the season in Rome this week but the result was no different than almost all of his other attempts so far; a first round loss. This time Muster fell to 20-year-old German, Cedrik-Marcel Stebe 6-0, 6-3.

Muster, whose last game prior to his return was a first round loss at the 1999 French Open, said the idea behind his comeback is to challenge himself to get back in top shape and enjoy the perks of the competitive world of tennis.

The 43-year-old’s decision to return to the ATP Tour was initially met with scrutiny by many, but Muster was not discouraged, accepting a wildcard into the Rai Open challenger in Rome, his 11th tournament in ten months, and third in as many weeks.

"I don't care what people say - I never did,” insisted the 1995 French Open champion, who was given the green light from his wife to – in his words – “chase his pubertal dream”.

Such comebacks are certainly inspiring ones, like that of American Dara Torres, who at 41 made a surprise return to professional swimming and qualified to the Beijing 2008 Olympics where she won three Silver medals.

In 2008, Japanese player, Kimiko Date-Krumm, made a reappearance on the WTA Tour at the age of 37 following a 12-year retirement period, and since her comeback has enjoyed victories over the likes of Dinara Safina and Maria Sharapova, as well as a WTA title win in Seoul in 2009. The 40-year-old is currently ranked 56 in the WTA rankings.

Unfortunately Muster’s comeback story though exciting, is not nearly as successful as Torres’ nor Date-Krumm’s. Muster, winner of 44 career ATP singles titles, the tennis veteran has managed one single victory in 11 tournaments winning only 3 sets in total.

His only ATP Tour level match came on home ground in Austria, where he lost in the first round of the ATP 250 event in Vienna to his compatriot Andreas Haider-Maurer, the top seed in Rome this week.

Thomas Muster after winning the 1995 Roland Garros

Still the fact that someone of Muster’s calibre and record, has opted to fight his way through the challenger circuit is quite admirable. He is a player who at his peak was described as one of the grittiest clay-court players of all-time; a supremely talented lefty whose baseline mastery troubled the likes of Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi, and who at 43 is now attempting to compete with tennis’ younger generation. But I wonder how long he can put up with these losses and what is he really getting out of all this?

Muster is currently at 991 in the ATP rankings.

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