Age is but a number…
Originally published on: 19/10/10 12:09
As tennis careers go, it wasn’t half bad. Forty-four career titles, over $12million in prize money, and a healthy spell as the top-ranked player in the world. But that’s not enough for Austria’s Thomas Muster. Move over Kimiko Date-Krumm, because at 43-years-old, the Leibnitz-born left-hander is back.
Due to make his return to the ATP World Tour (for the first time in over a decade) at next week’s Bank Austria Tennis Trophy in Vienna, the former world No.1 will jostle with the likes of Jurgen Melzer, Marin Cilic and Juan Martin del Potro at the ATP 250 tournament.
But Muster, who was long considered one of the fittest players on tour at the height of his career, believes he still has the legs and the fight to impress on the professional stage.
“I’m looking forward to it enormously,” Muster told Austria’s Krone. “I want to inspire the crowd with my fitness and fighting spirit. I’m fighting like in the good old times and I will give everything in front of the fans in Vienna.”
Muster has played in six challenger tournaments this year, winning just once – against world No.570 Borut Puc in Slovenia – to rank at No.982 in the world.
The former French Open champ, who once held the ‘King of Clay’ nickname now firmly associated with Rafael Nadal, had a colourful career in the game. Twice a semi-finalist at the Australian Open, he also reached three quarter-finals at Flushing Meadows either side of his 1995 Roland Garros triumph.
His ultimate success was remarkable, especially given that in 1989 he suffered a career-threatening injury after a freak accident. Due to contest the Miami final with Ivan Lendl, Muster was struck by a drunk-driver the night before and severed ligaments in his left knee. The Austrian was back on court within six months – returning to the scene of his accident to lift the Miami title eight years later.
Muster’s last tour-level match came at the 1999 French Open, but the old dog is stirring inside. As he confesses, he ‘lives for tennis’, and there’ll be a grin the size of Austria firmly planted on the face of the 43-year-old when he’s back amongst the big boys next week.