By Rick Jillson
For all tennis fans you know over the age of 30…
As I watched the 5th set of “the greatest match ever” the other day on ESPN Classic, I found myself inexplicably reminiscing about — ne, longing for — the glory days of Thomas Muster. Despite the fact that he was an unapologetic clay court specialist, I always picture Muster in a mid-90s US Open evening match against Brad Gilbert — trash-talking and sweating and snorting and even leaping the net on a changeover in a wonderfully silly attempt to unnerve his opponent. These guys hated one another and they both had more guts and guile than finesse and ability, and the crowd was into it and, to me, that one match epitomizes what I loved about the personality of tennis in that era. It wasn’t always pure or graceful, but you never knew when someone might vomit toward the back of the court and then just keep playing.
So I’m watching Nadal frolic about in his capris with his Jungle Book hair perfectly amiss, and I’m thinking — if I could magically teleport Muster onto Centre Court right now, I bet he would casually walk up to Nadal, press a finger against the outside of one nostril and blow snot at the guy’s feet. Then he’d walk away with that ridiculous barrel-chested trot without saying a word.
Then I made a grave error. I went online and found thomasmuster.com. There a man who once called Andre Agassi “a poor man’s Pete Sampras” politely thanked me for my support over the years and invited me to peruse clothing from his fashion label — TOMS — along with his own brand of bottled water and, gasp, wine. I mean I realize the guy’s from Austria, but wine? I wanted to picture him 40 pounds overweight with eight or 10 long strands of muddy blond hair, sitting in a pub in front of a plate of giant blood sausages and luke-warm beer, shouting to anyone within earshot that “Jimmy Arias was a little p***y.”
I don’t know what I expected to find at thomasmuster.com — maybe a short diatribe about how the Internet is for losers and a broken link to a dwarf-tossing website. Instead I was met with the following:
“I hope you have a lot of fun reading through this website. I would count myself lucky if you were to have as much enjoyment from our products as I do and also become a member of the TOMS family.
And so a little of my tennis past has died these past few days.
To you, fellow fans of 1980s and 90s tennis, I say, take heart — these days of capri pants and custom jackets eventually will pass.
And to Thomas Muster, fashion mogul and wine merchant, I have just one thing to say: You cannot be serious.
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