02-25-2005, 06:59 AM
thomas muster's incredible haul of 12 titles a season has really impressed me? how about for you guys? was it just a sign of him being a fighter? or do you guys think he should be right up there together with the other great ones like wilander and edberg?
02-25-2005, 07:52 AM
A great fighter, nothing wrong with that.
I can't say he was the most talented, but that doesn't mean he wasn't talented either. He had good but not great talent, but because of his determination and mental toughness (the guy practically NEVER EVER lost in finals...he definitely knew WHEN to bring it...totally opposite of Pioline, who was miraculous in semifinals only turn up limp, lame, and ludicrous in finals) he more than made up for it.
I think it is possible that he could have been a great had he NOT got gunned down by the idio-tick driver in the parking lot.
To me, he had more power than Chang. A more consistent serve than Chang. More topspin than Chang. More racket head speed than Chang. Was taller than Chang. Was as mentally tough as Chang (one of only a few in history who can make that claim). Was FITTER than Chang, which is REALLY saying something. Was only a HAIR slower than Chang.
Basically, what happened to Chang in the 95 French final? He got pushed around by a guy who moved as well as him, competed as well as him, tried as hard as him, but was simply more powerful than him. That was the difference.
Neverthlees, I think had Muster been totally healthy he would not have been a
"great." Why? Because as mentally tough as he was, I'm still not so sure that he would have trained as patholigically hard as he did to overcome his handicap. NO ONE came close to training like Muster did during his short peak, which is why he was so feared by others for about a two year span. Players literally walked into matches already waving the white flag, they wanted no part of "the animal" as came to be known. He took what Courier did and made it look like a walk in the park.
Now, even still, he was not at the physical peak of his capabilities during this time due to his surgically reconstructed knee.
IF he had the knee he was born with, AND continued to train as he did with the ten mile runs and all, THEN and ONLY then would he have been a great. The thing is, I just don't think that would have happened, because as driven as Muster was, a large part of that drive was his almost pathological desire to AVENGE THE PERSONAL demons inflicted upon him by that tragic accident in 1989. Without that, I don't think he would have jacked up his training to obscene levels like he did. He would still be a good player no doubt, but I think ultimately, he would have ended up a consistent top ten player with one or two slams to his name when it was all said and done...which does not qualify as "great," just very good.
I think Muster was GREAT in 95 and GREAT in the early hardcourt season of 97.
Other than that, he was not a great player. You can't really blame him (his knee), but at the same you can't really credit him for something he didn't accomplish either. By the same token, you also can't give him a free ride and the benefit of the doubt by assuming that he would have trained as hard as he did if he DIDN'T have to overcome a handicap.
It's the same with Lance Armstrong. He was a good but not great cyclist. Surviving cancer, however, was an event tramatic enough to change him and his pysche forever. After that, he was a changed man and driven by ethereal voices we will never know. Often times, it takes seemingly IMPOSSIBLE and UNFAIR adversity to reach a state of heightened awareness. It's called an *epiphany.*
Would Muster have been as driven without the UNJUSTICE of 89? Me, personally? I don't think so. He still would have been driven, just not to the level that seemed to border on pyschosis and dimentia in 95 and at the 97 Lipton. That was almost unhealthy. I honestly don't know that it is humanly possible or healthy to sustain THAT level of intensity throughout a career. It's not surprising that for all his BLAZING FURY, he blew out like a candlelight and put on 50lbs. and never picked up a racket during his never official retirement...basically, he just woke up one day and stopped caring.
So in the final estimate, I look at Muster as neither great nor "just a fighter." There is no ABSOLUTE way of proving anything. Muster had unique circumstances and played with a unique condition (a shortened, limping leg) that other players didn't, but at the same time this handicap is also what FUELED him to prove everyone wrong, so in that sense, it was in a very real sense his greatest weapon, because during his peak, players didn't fear his talent, they feared his belly, it was *a belly like a CAULDRON.*
So overall, I choose not to judge Muster as I would other players. I think he belongs in his own unique category, and as such I judge him not against others but against himself.
Given his condition, I feel that Muster accomplished all that ANY human, even Pete Sampras, possibly could given his handicap. As such, I think he "retired" *unofficially*...satisfied knowing that. So, in that respect, he is the greatest that he could be. In my book, that counts as great, but "great" with an *asterick*.
I think in this case, that's ok and that is also the ONLY fair judgement of him.
He did the best that was humanly possible given his condition, so by that standard he is great.
BUT by a career standard? IF he had not been mowed down in 89, and when he retired all he had was one French Open to show for it, one unbelievable year on clay, and a very brief run at #1, and the Lipton? Then, no. I wouldn't consider that great. I would consider that merely good, "just a fighter" in that case. Why? The bottom-line for me in terms of evaluating "greatness" is not your ranking, not how many tournaments you win...it's ONLY how many SLAMS did you win? From that perspective, to me Rafter is greater than Chang, greater than Muster, greater than Ivanisevic, even if he was a late bloomer. In the end, it doesn't really matter I feel, because I think if you ask Chang or Ivanisevic what would matter most, a consistent top ten ranking or two slams, they would take the two slams...period.
Just ask Ivanisevic. In fact, you don't even need to ask him. Just rewind the tape and take a look at the COMPLETE and UTTER desperation in his eyes as he won his LAST chance at Wimbledon. It doesn't matter if you had a "good" career, won a lot of titles, was highly ranked for years, none of that matters unless you retire AT THE VERY LEAST with ONE slam...they really are each that precious...just ask Korda...just ask MEDVEDEV.
The very same Medvedev who wasted his once "sure-shot" career and physique away by dilly-dallying, partying, and simply not caring THAT much. As he said, he's not like the other guys who "plan their lives around tennis." No, he's the type who "plans tennis around his life." HUGE difference in perspective...
NEVERTHELESS, when an in the dumps and pondering retirement Medvedev somehow unbeknownst to him found himself in the finals of the French of the 98 French? All of a sudden, that care-free, I'm above tennis, Medvedev was brought figuratively to his knees begging and praying for his ONE...last (he had to have known it) shot at grand slam championship.
He ended up choking like a dog those last three sets, because he wanted it THAT bad.
Which just goes to show, even the most unmotivated of players, even ones who were once deemed by all to have the "potential" to be "great," even the most unmotivated are motivated when they know it's their last chance at a slam.
Put it this way, had Rios way past his prime completely unexpectedly found himself in the finals of a slam somehow, someway unbeknownst to him...you can bet your pants off that he would be TRYING as if his life were on the line in that final. You didn't see no more "joking around" and "Mr. Class Clown" in Goran's eyes on match point in his LAST Wimbledon final did you?
Even Stich, a guy who was known for "not caring," most certainly looked like he was caring in his last Wimbledon semifinal. His eyes were bugging out he wanted it so bad, he was slamming his racket he wanted it so bad, he was letting out primal screams after HUGE points because he wanted it so bad, because the GRAVITY of the moment, his LAST chance at a slam was weighing on him so...so...so...HEAVILY.
02-25-2005, 07:35 PM
Do you get paid by the word?
02-26-2005, 03:20 AM
Do you get paid by the word? He should. It was a good post.
I have to disagree about Muster not caring. As far as I know, he will not talk about the time he spent in Australia, this is simply a void in his c.v., but at the moment, Muster is taking on the Austrian tennis association and trying to revamp it so that young players in Austria have better training possibilities and more chances to go professsional. Austria has many positive attributes, but it is very resisitant to change. Revamping the system for the younger players is not something that anyone asked him to do, nor is it something that is being met with open arms and enthusiam. Muster has to care a lot to even think about doing this.
I also question that Muster would not have fought as hard if it hadn't been for the accident. Wasn't he on the rise when it happened ? I think his fighting spirit would have been there just the same, and if he hadn't had the set back that he had, he would have dominated the tour for a few years more.
02-26-2005, 12:57 PM
Muster was a good fighter...not a great one...when looking at his career overall on all surfaces, he put in too many half hearted efforts and tanked 1 too many matches for me to rank him as a great fighter.
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