With aspirations of returning to the ATP full-time, Thomas Muster played his first tour-level match since 1999 but came up short in his comeback bid. The 43-year-old Muster was bounced out of Vienna by fellow-Austrian Andreas Haider-Mauer 6-2, 7-6(5) in the first round.
“It was unbelievable walking out to a standing ovation on a national holiday; it was just a great atmosphere,” said Muster. “It’s all been worthwhile, all the practice, and it was a good start. From the tennis side I probably could have won that second set, but the main thing is that there’s no pain, I’m fit and I know I can go long matches. I also know I could have played a better match today, that comes with playing matches and building confidence and we’ll see in the future. It’s awesome to be back playing.”
Sure, Thomas could have won that second set but he didn’t. And frankly I don’t understand his desire to try to compete against the best players on the planet when the Senior tour is a better fit for his competitive nature and skill set.
I caught some of the match and Muster looked like the old Muster which means a lot of short, spinny groundstrokes that inevitably sit-up and beg to get crushed. In the 90s, Muster could grind players down with that strategy and by moving them side-to-side as he did today, but in this era short balls get pounded. And there was some of that.
Muster also had no answer for Haider-Mauer’s serve who at a ranking of No. 157 only lost one point on first serve and never faced a break point. Credit to Andreas who was put into the difficult, almost no-win, position of having to face a national icon in a jammed stadium after Ernests Gulbis mysteriously withdrew ahead of the match.
Muster obviously loves playing and I admire his dedication and work ethic. And to be honest, he did better than I thought he would and played pretty well in the second set. But I just don’t see the motivation of working that hard, making that sacrifice only to lose to lower-level players. Sorry, he’s not going to “Kimiko Date” his way back to Top 50 let alone the Top 200! Not in men’s tennis.
“I’ll keep training hard and plan to enter 20 to 25 events from March,” Muster told the AP. “There is no pressure of getting into the top 10 … It’s about enjoying tennis. In ’99, I hated tennis. Now I love it.”
Geez, another guy who hated tennis in the 90s!
Also in Vienna, another player who might need to hang it up is James Blake. The American’s 2010 tailspin continued today after he lost to Lukuz Kubot 6-4, 6-4.
The 30-year-old Blake is now ranked No. 125 and unless he puts up a big result in the next few weeks he won’t make the Australian Open cut.
A match of interest from Montpellier, David Nalbandian is back after a 6-4, 6-4 win over Marcel Granollers. John Isner was also a victor.
The year-end championships began with a resounding dud in Doha today. The three opening day matches were anything but competitive.
Vera Zvonareva ripped a uninspired Jelena Jankovic 6-3, 6-0. World No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki destroyed Elena Dementieva 6-1, 6-1 and in an upset to me, Sam Stosur avenged her French final loss by downing Francesca Schiavone 6-4, 6-4.
On Wednesday, my tournament pick Kim Clijsters returns to tennis for the first time since her NY title, and Wozniacki can wrap up the 2010 No. 1 ranking by beating Stosur.
WEDNESDAY DOHA SCHEDULE
Khalifa Tennis Complex (from 17.00hrs)
1. Vera Zvonareva vs. Victoria Azarenka
2. Kim Clijsters vs. Jelena Jankovic
3. Caroline Wozniacki vs. Samantha Stosur
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