Thomas ‘Iron Man’ Muster technically finally retired fittingly at age 44 to match his career 44 titles. His first retirement was in 1998 and his recent swan song, also fittingly ended in defeat by another Austrian.
During the early to mid 1990s, Muster was the King of Clay. Between 1990 and 1997 he did not lose a Masters Series final, winning 8 titles in total. Wow. These are Nadal on clay numbers. Let’s also remember that back in 1989, he was hit by a drunk driver in Indian Wells on the eve of a final against Yannick Noah. After knee surgery while still in a chair he was hitting balls.
Back from the Brink
You could say this put the Adamantium in the Wolverine that became the never say die warrior that he was. In 1995 he won 12 events, to which only Federer (Djokovic could equal or eclipse in 2011) has matched.
Most of his 44 titles were on clay of course with his crowning moment the 1995 French Open title. He did silence a few doubters in 1997 with a couple of hard court titles, notable his win at the Masters Series event in Miami.
His style of play was unmistakable. He was called the Moo Man for his grunting and legend has it, he ran a marathon by accident after getting lost one day on a run. He perhaps did not have the talent of other lefties of his era like Marcelo Rios or even Petr Korda, but he had the discipline to hit the extra ball.
During his heyday, Muster was not the most popular player. Agassi had run ins with him at the French Open and Pat Cash is quoted to say he could not respect Muster. I know what Thomas would say to that, but anyone who grinds out 44 titles is going to have to play hard ball. He did once call Mark Woodforde a f*****, which was uncalled for. I mean, was Woodforde really a threat? Perhaps on grass, where he never won a match.
After his unofficial retirement in 1999, he disappeared to Australia with his then wife to start a winery and other business ventures, but he came back to Austria, re-married to try tennis again, mainly on the Challenger circuit. It was more to prove something to himself than about the results (disastrous by most accounts) but it did beg the question why he didn’t just go straight to the Champions Tour. He may do still!
There has to be no doubt that the Iron Man deserves a place in the Hall of Fame for his achievements and for moving Austrian tennis on and inspiring a whole generations of (badly behaved) Austrian players.
Highest Ranking: 1 (1996)
Career Titles: 44
Grand Slam Wins: 1
Masters 1000 Wins: 8
Win/Loss Record: 622/273
Career Prize Money: $12,252,511
Records: Holds record with Roger Federer for most singles titles in a calendar year (12).
Famous for: Muster was selected Austrian Sportsman of the Year in 1990 and 1995.
Did You Know? He remains the only world no. 1 singles player of the open era who has never won a match at Wimbledon.
Watch: Muster Uncovered
Watch: vs. Kafelnikov French Open
Watch: vs. Sampras Essen 1996