Federer v Nadal? Give me Muster and the Good Ol’ Days
by Staff | July 10th, 2008, 11:51 am

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.

Yours sincerely

Thomas Muster”

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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28 Comments for Federer v Nadal? Give me Muster and the Good Ol’ Days

Skorocel Says:

Austria as a “non-wine country”? I guess Müller-Thurgau, Grüner Veltliner, Riesling, or Tokaji (even though not originally Austrian) are all pretty decent and well known brands, aren’t they? :)

Joakim Nystrom Says:

Muster was an ornery beast out there.
Too bad he was partially run over by a car, I think in Miami.

That really hurt….. his climb to greatness.

Vulcan Says:

It would be ironic if Muster said some such thing about Arias given the fact that he played with a semi-western forehand and Arias pretty much invented (with some help from Nick Bollieteri) the big western forehand.

freakyfrites Says:

This is hilarious! Thanks much.

JCF Says:

Not everyone is into this kind of ‘sportsmanship’ Rick, though I do understand why you might be excited by these kind of displays. Nowadays, that kind of action gets you booed, whistled, and jeered at.

kamret Says:

No offense, but this is one of the most stupid articles I have ever read. I am a 39-year-old tennis fan and do respect/admire Muster what he accomplished in tennis but to bring his name up when referring to such living legends as Federer & Nadal (Fed vs. Nadal) is beyond stupidity!

NachoF Says:

Tennis is supposed to be classy…. only old people want it to go back to how it was in the 80s

Dan Martin Says:

I remember the whole Muster-Gilbert dust up started at the French Open that year (1993 according to the ATP site). Gilbert lost in straight sets on clay as one might imagine given how good Muster was on clay and how bad Gilbert was in Grand Slam play (2 career GS quarterfinals were his best showings). After the loss in Paris, Gilbert said something about wanting whatever substance was in Muster’s water bottle – implying some sort of doping helped Muster have energy throughout the match.

Muster called Gilbert “Mr. Ugly Winning” going into the U.S. Open match as a play on the title of Gilbert’s book after Winning Ugly. The match was ugly. At some point in the 3rd or 4th set, Muster told Gilbert something to the effect that Gilbert could hit the ball anywhere on Muster’s side of the net and not worry about the lines and that Muster would still beat him.

The match did work in the night match U.S. Open environment, but after reading this I have to say “Rick Jillson? Give me Dan Martin.” I guess I have a little of Muster 93 in my psyche as well.

tennismonger Says:

As a huge Mu-Man fan, I found this article pretty damn amusing. Say what you will about the man but in the end he most certainly let his racket do the talking. He was true enough to his convictions to loathe Wimbledon ’til the end unlike sentimental contemporaries like Lendl or Agassi.

Funny thing is, if he were around today he’d easily make the quarters @ SW19 the way that sad excuse for grass plays nowadays.

And if anyone has a copy of that Muster/Gilbert match, PLEASE contact me – I’d give anything for an “ugly” match like that!

consafos Says:

@ Vulcan,

Dude, people have been using western grips since the 1920s, at least. Google Bill Johnston.

And Bolliteri is a total blowhard who knows absolutely nothing about the game. The only thing he ever helped invent is his creepy style of self promotion.

bobby Says:

How stupid of the auther to bring Muster`s name who i agree was a very good player,but when tennis is roaring in popularity all over the world because of Nadal and Federer,it feels odd.Maybe auther is living in another world not to see the Grace and ability of both Federer and Nadal and not to aknowledge the popularity that tennis is gettin all over the world because of them.

Never Fear Says:

One thing anyone can say about Nadal is this – he has the fighting spirit of a Connors, Hewitt or Muster if you will with none of the negative energy. Maybe Nadal’s sprint to the baseline after the coin toss is a little bit of an intimidation tactic. My guess is that sprint is just part of the highly ritualized way Nadal plays his tennis matches. Beyond that I see nothing negative about his demeanor on court.

Skorocel Says:

To Never Fear:

Yes, Rafa is certainly prone to “some” rituals – whether it is that notorious bottle placing, sock adjusting, line wiping, or indeed that jumping before and after the coin toss :) Btw, have you noticed that the guy always walks onto the court already with the racquet in his hand? That’s one of the strangest habits I’ve ever seen by any player, but anyway, these things just show you how meticulous & focused this guy can be…

ChrisM Says:

@ consafos

Thank you.

I like tennis bullies not tennis sissies Says:

tennis-x should do a new poll in honour of itself:

“how depressed is tennis-x that their fanboy fave Federer lost to Nadal again?”
– very depressed
– sleep all day until USO comes around depressed
– so depressed we could eat Juliette
– suicidal

Vulcan Says:

Wikipedia excerpt:

Arias is also credited to have first implemented the forehand swing style currently used in today’s modern game [the “top spin” forehand]; this stroke is characterized by impacting the tennis ball with a racquet swing trajectory from low to high, thus resulting in high revolutions (rotations) per second on the tennis ball. After this impact, the aerodynamic effect of the rotations on the tennis ball causes it to descend inside the tennis court. It is rumored that Arias’s father, an electrical engineer, helped to originate this stroke while he helped his son to modify and perfect this distinctive forehand swing.

Vulcan Says:

Arias may not have been the first to use a western grip or hit a topspin forehand but he clearly had a unique and innovative forehand.

ChrisM Says:

Heh. Wikipedia is open; anybody can write anything. Jimmy Arias probably wrote that. Maybe you wrote that. I can go to that page and change it right now.

In other words, don’t cite Wikipedia.

(Also: western does not equal topspin. I can hit dropshots with western grips.)

Shital Green Says:

Ref: “anybody can write anything.”
You are mistaken on this because you have not written/edited anything there. Wiki is not write what you want. You need evidence and acknowledgment of the source of the evidence to back it up. Or else, it will be deleted within a couple of hours (sometimes, it may take a day or two). Try it yourself if you don’t believe me.

This does not mean Wiki is 100% scholarly but better than most other online sources IN GENERAL, definitely as good as Sports Illustrated and other sports news outlets.

FloridaMan Says:

Yes, Muster does not deserved to be uttered in the same breath as Federer and Nadal, that is an utter, stupid joke.
Having said that, I did like Muster’s immense fitness. He’s a very poor man’s Nadal.

Alex Says:

One of the most ridiculous article i’d ever read.

If you enjoy ‘trash-talking and sweating and snorting’, go and watch WWE wrestling instead. I am sure you will find it much more entertaining and to your taste.

Dan Martin Says:

WWE events and tennis would make a frightening hybrid. Here is what I imagine. At the end of the 4th set at Wimbledon you would hear Swiss music playing with McEnroe saying, “That’s Stanislas Wawrinka’s music! What is he doing here?!?! Oh my, he has a baseball bat! What!?!? He just hit Federer with the bat! He and Nadal are embracing!!! What does this mean??? What does this mean???” fade to black… Tune in next Sunday for a resolution.

Real life drama, beats scripted drama.

Vulcan Says:

As stated above this article is idiotic.

ChrisM Says:

@ S.G. I have not written or edited anything at Wiki? Really? How do you know?

I have — months ago. It’s still there, and there’s no citation. As you advised me, try it for yourself, it won’t get removed. Wikipedia is 100% NOT scholarly. Ask a scholar.

However, feel free to continue relying on it as a reliable source of information, such as unbiased ‘scholarly’ reports on the ‘invention’ of tennis grips and spins.

Shital Green Says:

Ok, if Wiki has biased and false “reports on the ‘invention’ of tennis grips and spins,” why don’t you correct it if you have the right information other than “I don’t believe” or “I have a second opinion” or “it is 100% NOT scholarly” ?
Let me see your “correction”; then, I will believe Wiki is “anybody can write anything” or you are just another…

ChrisM Says:

I never said I had a correction. I said wiki was full of shit. Learn to read. You’re the one who was so sure I had never written anything there, but I didn’t ask you for your ‘proof.’

SG Says:

Don’t remember that Gilbert-Muster match. Too bad. Sounds like it was entertaining. Anyways, tennis is pretty entertaining without the confrontational side shows. When you see Nadal and Fed tie one on like they just did, who needs the extra curriculars. Nobody said after the 1980 “Battle of 18-16” match that they wished that it had been Connors and Nastase in the final. You have to appreciate greatness for what it is. Trying to find a context from which you can take away something from the Wimbledon final we just saw, and the players in that final, seems contrived to me.

TheFutureOfEverything_plus_FancyHandMovements Says:

That was pretty entertaining (for a tennis column). Nice Job! My response is: (#1) It’s pretty idiotic of commentors to call this article idiotic..when a viewpoint is simply being expressed..and one whose underlying gist is CORRECT. Tennis players with ‘non-ideal’ personalities including pugnacity or abrasiveness can be QUITE entertaining to watch..and certainly with Federer/Nadal you are getting two classy guys & competitors who will never cause an uprising or or unexpected competitive fervor…like Thomas Muster..-or a John McEnroe for that matter- would do pretty commonly. (#2) Commenter ‘Never Fear’ is totally correct about Nadal. In my 25-30 years of watching tennis, I would say he has the #1 COMPETITIVE MINDSET I have EVER seen. While, certainly, the cool, highly competitive & CLUTCH mindsets of ALL-TIME Greats like Sampras & Federer have to be close seconds, Nadal is a nudge above with ‘Connors-like ferocity & fight, but ZERO negative energy’. And if you review even his matches THIS YEAR..you’ll see that (on the rare occasions he falls behind)he comes back (within sets) from 1-4 or 0-3 down, etc..with HIGH FREQUENCY including multiple times in consecutive match vs. FEDERER. Mentally..Nadal is a FREAK. (in the best sense of the word). I remember him getting bageled in the first set vs Federer (in Wimbledon last year..I believe(??)..and was stunned to observe him NOT display even a wisp of negative energy the whole time he was being manhandled..& then..(probably unsurprisingly) came back & made it a highly competitive 5 set match. Just as amazing was Nadal’s recent grass court match this summer (Ardois or Wimbledon..forget which) against sensational-serving and 6-10 Ivo Karlovic. Nadal won..while NEVER breaking Karlovic’s serve..yet FLIRTING with losing the match HIMSELF, essentially, the WHOLE TIME (due to break points on his serve or prospect of losing a tie breaker) since, on that day, because of how well Karlovic was serving, there was simply NO ROOM FOR ANY ERROR or MENTAL LAPSE. And that’s what you get with Nadal -another VICTORY resulting from his (near) MENTAL-COMPETITIVE perfection.

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