it's a really shame that thomas muster has only one RG

tkramer15

Semi-Pro
I watched tennis in the Muster era and I think it's important to remember that in those days clay and the rest of the surfaces were considerably different. Unlike today, many Pros didn't even bother seriously with either the clay or grass seasons, if it wasn't their expertise. That is why Muster won so many CC tournaments. But at the GS level he had to face everyone, and his one-dimensional game wasn't good enough. Kudos for the hard work he put in, but 1-2 French GS would be a good return for his lack of all-round tennis skills. Similar to Ivanisevic on grass, and how it should be: The GS should reward all-round ability rather than one type of skill.
I agree in part. Your description of the surface variation and specialization of the period is accurate. Ultimately, a combination of many factors led to Muster "only" winning one slam.

Sure, Muster's game had limitations. However, I wouldn't say that he didn't win more slams because of his "lack of all-around tennis skills." You can't win 44 tournaments, including a slam and eight Masters events on three different surfaces, without having major skills. Muster held his own against most of his peers from that era.

For me, it was Muster's inability to generate almost any free points with his serve that made it extremely difficult to win seven best of five set matches over two weeks. Regardless of his fitness level, having to grind out so many long rallies took a toll. Then of course he was susceptible to being rushed by serve and volleyers.

But circumstances and timing are perhaps just as pivotal, if not more so.

Bruguera, for instance, didn't have a game any more well-rounded than Muster's, and his overall career pales in comparison to Muster's, yet he compiled more deep runs at RG somewhat because he had far easier early-round draws during his prime years. Yes, Bruguera had huge wins in late rounds at RG, and he handled Rafter, but there is no question that he generally benefited from softer early round draws during his best runs. Draws matter, and they mattered a lot in those days.

Nobody will know what Muster's career arc would've been had he not been hit by that car in Miami. It's possible he peaks several years earlier and is in a better place to contend for slams in the first half of the '90s. But with earlier success would he have remained as hungry and gone on his epic run in 1995-96? Alas, due to the rehabilitation and subsequent burnout, Muster spent much of 1991 and 1992 rebuilding his mind, his game and his ranking.

By the time Muster was ready to peak, Courier and Bruguera were starting to slip a bit. With the emergence of the Spanish Armada of Corretja, Albert Costa, Moya, Berasategui and Mantilla, plus Rios and Kafelnikov, the clay field depth actually increased significantly right around 1995-96, but Muster dominated the scene for two years. Muster was an overwhelming favorite to defend his RG title in 1996, but he lost to an inspired Stich, playing with nothing to lose, in hot, faster than normal conditions. Stich nearly won the entire tournament. Again, circumstances and timing.

When looking at the '90s clay scene, it's clear that the landscape shifted every few years. Courier was the man to beat for several years in the early '90s, winning twice in '91 and '92. Bruguera then emerged and dethroned Courier in '93 and '94 before Muster took over for his two-year reign in '95 and '96. Things became more varied after that, with the aforementioned Spaniards being joined by Kuerten and later Ferrero as the lead contenders into the 2000s.

The main takeaway here is that nobody's clay peak in the '90s lasted much more than two years. Courier, Bruguera and Muster were certainly big factors for more than two seasons, but each basically led the charge for two years apiece. And each did it differently. As was standard in those days, Courier didn't play a full European clay schedule, so his raw clay match win totals don't compare. Bruguera did play a full schedule, and while quite successful, he wasn't nearly as dominant as Muster was in 1995-96. Granted, up until '95, Muster had been among the best clay court players but had not distinguished himself as anything more.

Anyone can frame the situation to fit whatever narrative he or she wishes to push, but the balanced, full picture take is that Muster had a small window of realistic opportunity to win RG. He won once out of maybe three or four realistic chances. The primary reason that Muster didn't feature in the later rounds more often was because of his ranking situation and/or draw circumstances, not because of a lack of all-around tennis skills.

Likewise, I understand what you're saying about Ivanisevic -- It was obviously easier to excel on quick grass with his serve. However, I think it's too harsh to say that he lacked skill just because he lost a number of big matches to Sampras, Agassi and Becker at Wimbledon. Those guys are legends. They're in another tier. Ivanisevic beat many great players during those runs, including Sampras, Becker, Edberg and Lendl among others. Circumstances and timing finally aligned for Ivanisevic in 2001.
 

bigbadboaz

Semi-Pro
Was Muster known for crazy intensity prior to the accident, or was that something brought on by the need to regain what was taken from him?
 

Grafil Injection

Hall of Fame
I agree in part. Your description of the surface variation and specialization of the period is accurate. Ultimately, a combination of many factors led to Muster "only" winning one slam.

Sure, Muster's game had limitations. However, I wouldn't say that he didn't win more slams because of his "lack of all-around tennis skills." You can't win 44 tournaments, including a slam and eight Masters events on three different surfaces, without having major skills. Muster held his own against most of his peers from that era.

For me, it was Muster's inability to generate almost any free points with his serve that made it extremely difficult to win seven best of five set matches over two weeks. Regardless of his fitness level, having to grind out so many long rallies took a toll. Then of course he was susceptible to being rushed by serve and volleyers.

But circumstances and timing are perhaps just as pivotal, if not more so.

Bruguera, for instance, didn't have a game any more well-rounded than Muster's, and his overall career pales in comparison to Muster's, yet he compiled more deep runs at RG somewhat because he had far easier early-round draws during his prime years. Yes, Bruguera had huge wins in late rounds at RG, and he handled Rafter, but there is no question that he generally benefited from softer early round draws during his best runs. Draws matter, and they mattered a lot in those days.

Nobody will know what Muster's career arc would've been had he not been hit by that car in Miami. It's possible he peaks several years earlier and is in a better place to contend for slams in the first half of the '90s. But with earlier success would he have remained as hungry and gone on his epic run in 1995-96? Alas, due to the rehabilitation and subsequent burnout, Muster spent much of 1991 and 1992 rebuilding his mind, his game and his ranking.

By the time Muster was ready to peak, Courier and Bruguera were starting to slip a bit. With the emergence of the Spanish Armada of Corretja, Albert Costa, Moya, Berasategui and Mantilla, plus Rios and Kafelnikov, the clay field depth actually increased significantly right around 1995-96, but Muster dominated the scene for two years. Muster was an overwhelming favorite to defend his RG title in 1996, but he lost to an inspired Stich, playing with nothing to lose, in hot, faster than normal conditions. Stich nearly won the entire tournament. Again, circumstances and timing.

When looking at the '90s clay scene, it's clear that the landscape shifted every few years. Courier was the man to beat for several years in the early '90s, winning twice in '91 and '92. Bruguera then emerged and dethroned Courier in '93 and '94 before Muster took over for his two-year reign in '95 and '96. Things became more varied after that, with the aforementioned Spaniards being joined by Kuerten and later Ferrero as the lead contenders into the 2000s.

The main takeaway here is that nobody's clay peak in the '90s lasted much more than two years. Courier, Bruguera and Muster were certainly big factors for more than two seasons, but each basically led the charge for two years apiece. And each did it differently. As was standard in those days, Courier didn't play a full European clay schedule, so his raw clay match win totals don't compare. Bruguera did play a full schedule, and while quite successful, he wasn't nearly as dominant as Muster was in 1995-96. Granted, up until '95, Muster had been among the best clay court players but had not distinguished himself as anything more.

Anyone can frame the situation to fit whatever narrative he or she wishes to push, but the balanced, full picture take is that Muster had a small window of realistic opportunity to win RG. He won once out of maybe three or four realistic chances. The primary reason that Muster didn't feature in the later rounds more often was because of his ranking situation and/or draw circumstances, not because of a lack of all-around tennis skills.

Likewise, I understand what you're saying about Ivanisevic -- It was obviously easier to excel on quick grass with his serve. However, I think it's too harsh to say that he lacked skill just because he lost a number of big matches to Sampras, Agassi and Becker at Wimbledon. Those guys are legends. They're in another tier. Ivanisevic beat many great players during those runs, including Sampras, Becker, Edberg and Lendl among others. Circumstances and timing finally aligned for Ivanisevic in 2001.

Of his 55 finals, 48 were on clay and a number of those weren't exactly big tournaments. He only turned up at Wimbledon 4 times and never got past the 1st round. 1 slam and 44 tournaments was a great achievement really, making the most of his clay expertise.
 

Smecz

Semi-Pro
i look at the thomas muster 's wikipdia page and look at his carrer title
and he won total 44 carrer title
and his clay dominance is total insane for me ....
in 1995 , he won total 12 title ( 11 title was clay , include french open and monte carlo and rome )
total insane record for me ....
it 's a really shame that he has only one RG
i think least he should have won 5 RG



All in all, it's a shame, he certainly could have done more, it's surprising that even such a clay master won only one grand slam on the orange surface.

Likewise, I was always sure that Dominic Thiem would win Roland Garros, and now I think it will not happen.

It seems that no matter how great a champion someone is, there are prizes that require the champion to try hard to win!!!
 
Muster is very overrated on clay, yes he won many tournaments but his constant failures at the French cannot be discussed away.
I would cut him slack had he won the 96 version which would have meant that at least for a short period of two years he could hold up a dominance level that would have justified him being called “Nadal of the 90s” (115-4 over two years with two FO would be nothing to scoff at).
However, losing against a guy like Stich who has never made much noise at the French was a throw back to his usual showings at Paris. Even in 95 he wasn’t really dominant, could well have lost the match against Costa,
 

Grafil Injection

Hall of Fame
Muster is very overrated on clay, yes he won many tournaments but his constant failures at the French cannot be discussed away.
I would cut him slack had he won the 96 version which would have meant that at least for a short period of two years he could hold up a dominance level that would have justified him being called “Nadal of the 90s” (115-4 over two years with two FO would be nothing to scoff at).
However, losing against a guy like Stich who has never made much noise at the French was a throw back to his usual showings at Paris. Even in 95 he wasn’t really dominant, could well have lost the match against Costa,
Yeah, thinking about it more now. 48 finals on clay of which he won 44. Either he's the greatest CC player ever, or he hoovered up a load of low level tournaments with little opposition. Makes a lot of sense really, because in those days you didn't get much for losing in the 1st round of big tournaments, like you do today.
 

Mainad

Bionic Poster



All in all, it's a shame, he certainly could have done more, it's surprising that even such a clay master won only one grand slam on the orange surface.

Likewise, I was always sure that Dominic Thiem would win Roland Garros, and now I think it will not happen.

It seems that no matter how great a champion someone is, there are prizes that require the champion to try hard to win!!!

Strangely, he was never able to win his country's top tournament, the Erste Bank Open in Vienna. Made 3 finals (1988,1993,1995) but lost them all. Of course that was a hardcourt event
 

Musterrific

Hall of Fame
Strangely, he was never able to win his country's top tournament, the Erste Bank Open in Vienna. Made 3 finals (1988,1993,1995) but lost them all. Of course that was a hardcourt event
That has bothered me ever since. The loss in the final to journeyman mug DeWulf during Muster's peak year in 1995 is particularly inexplicable. He also lost the Kitzbuhel final that year to Costa, so it's very frustrating that during such an otherwise crushing season he happened to stumble at the finish line right in front of his home crowd twice. Surprisingly un-clutch for him. Imagine if he won 14 titles in '95? That would have been unprecedented.

At least the loss to Skoff in '88 is easier to digest because at least it was an all-Austrian final.
 

tkramer15

Semi-Pro
Of his 55 finals, 48 were on clay and a number of those weren't exactly big tournaments. He only turned up at Wimbledon 4 times and never got past the 1st round. 1 slam and 44 tournaments was a great achievement really, making the most of his clay expertise.
Muster reached 10 Masters finals on three different surfaces, winning eight. That puts him in elite company and doesn't even count the Key Biscayne final that he reached in 1989 and couldn't play due to the car accident (The Masters tournament concept wasn't recognized until 1990). Muster reached one slam final and was victorious. He reached three additional slam semifinals (two Australian, one French) and five quarterfinals (three US, one Aussie, one French). If a novice fan analyzed only that information, he or she may conclude that Muster was a better hard court player than clay. Again, it's more complicated than that. Circumstances and timing were huge factors.

Muster won the equivalent of six ATP 500 titles (two apiece in Barcelona and Stuttgart outdoor, plus Dubai in 1997 and Kitzbuhel in 1993). Five of those six events contested best of five set finals. A novice fan may try to dismiss those events as meaningless. While they may not matter as much in the Big Three era, those tournaments absolutely did matter 25+ years ago.

Muster did win some "minor" clay events, but others that may be dismissed as minor today were actually quite strong back then. Take a look at the Madrid clay tourney that Muster won at the end of April/start of May 1994. That 32 player field was pretty strong. Edberg, Ivanisevic, Bruguera, Muster, Carlos Costa, Lendl, Volkov and Berasategui comprised the eight seeds. Muster beat Bruguera in a four set final.

How about the Boston summer clay event back in 1988? Muster, seeded eighth, beat Courier and second seeded Agassi en route to the title. Wilander was the top seed.

Of Muster's 11 runner-up showings, the only two events one could truly claim as "minor" were Munich in 1990 and Estoril in 1998. Yet, when looking at those draws, both were pretty strong. Munich 1990 featured Edberg, Sampras, Courier Stich, Chang and Korda. Estoril 1998 featured many leading clay contenders, including Moya, A. Costa, Mantilla and Berasategui.

As for Wimbledon, sure, Muster could've made more effort there. His 0-4 record is often used as a major negative mark, but it's not much different than any of his European clay-centric contemporaries of the period. Wimbledon, with its lightning quick, unpredictable low bounce back then, was not viewed as important to those players. It was a period to rest.
 

tkramer15

Semi-Pro
Muster is very overrated on clay, yes he won many tournaments but his constant failures at the French cannot be discussed away.
I would cut him slack had he won the 96 version which would have meant that at least for a short period of two years he could hold up a dominance level that would have justified him being called “Nadal of the 90s” (115-4 over two years with two FO would be nothing to scoff at).
However, losing against a guy like Stich who has never made much noise at the French was a throw back to his usual showings at Paris. Even in 95 he wasn’t really dominant, could well have lost the match against Costa,
We've gone over this numerous times before. Muster is compared to Nadal because he compiled two Nadal-like seasons of dominance. Nobody else in the '90s came close to playing as often on clay AND winning as often during a lengthy period of time. In '95, Muster won 35 matches in a row across victories in Estoril, Barcelona, Monte Carlo, Rome, Paris and St. Polten. His 1996 run was similar, minus a loss in the semis of Munich to Moya and a withdrawal in the quarters of St. Polten, which was played before Paris that year.

111-5 with a French Open, two Monte Carlo, two Rome, two Barcelona, two Stuttgart outdoor and two Estoril titles over two years is "nothing to scoff at."

Dismissing that level of success is indicative of some type of bias. Could Courier or Bruguera have pulled off something similar? Courier never really tried, at least not in his early years. Bruguera played a similar schedule to Muster and won far less. He had better success at Roland Garros, but there are numerous factors involved, all of which we've already covered.

Nobody is saying that Muster was as good as Nadal from a technical standpoint. They're simply saying that he engineered a similar level of dominance over a much shorter period, albeit still for essentially two seasons. Nadal shattered records and has rendered anyone else feeble by comparison. But yes, for a two-year period Muster was Nadal-like.

At the 1996 French, Muster played relatively poorly in a round of 16 match against a former slam champion, Stich, in hot, dry, faster than normal conditions. Stich nearly went on to win the tournament. Unexpected loss? Sure. Unexplainable or unforgiveable? Not hardly.

In '95, Muster lost his first set of the tournament before clobbering French qualifier Solves. Muster then beat Pioline, Carlos Costa and Medvedev all in straight sets. That made 12 consecutive sets for Muster. His quarterfinal battle with Albert Costa was indeed a war. Costa, who was in the midst of becoming a leading clay contender, had just beaten Courier the round before. After edging Albert Costa in five, Muster obliterated Kafelnikov in the semis. Muster then straight setted Chang in the final.

So, let's summarize. At the 1995 French Open, Muster lost a total of three sets, so he won 21 of 24 sets contested. Of the sets that Muster won, only three went to 7-5. He won nine sets while surrendering two games or fewer. He won bagel sets over Medvedev and Kafelnikov.

Pioline, already a slam finalist at this time, would go on to reach the Wimbledon final in '97 and the French semis in 1998. Medvedev, one of the better clay players of the period, eventually made a run to the 1999 French final. Albert Costa was in the midst of rising to the crop of leading clay contenders. In many ways, he was Muster's chief clay court rival over 1995 and '96. Costa eventually won the French in 2002. Kafelnikov won the '96 French, the '99 Aussie and was one of the best players of the '90s. Chang held that same moniker and was a former French winner. Muster beat them all, and he beat all of them except Costa extremely convincingly.

Did Muster lose to prime Courier a couple of times at the French? Did Muster falter in the fifth set against Kuerten in the third round in '97? Did Muster face the unenviable task of needing to beat Agassi, Rafter and Bruguera in '94 just to reach the quarters? Did he beat Agassi in a five set war but fall to Rafter two days later? Did a struggling/injury rehab burned out Muster lose a five setter to Sampras way back in '91? Did Muster blow a golden opportunity against veteran Gomez in the 1990 semis?

The answer to all of those questions, in one shape or form, is yes. One can frame it however one wishes. If you're very biased and anti-Muster, you'll act like those were mostly "bad losses" against inferior clay players. If you're more rational, you'll address the fact that Muster lost to Hall of Fame players and/or eventual finalists or champions every year between 1990 and 1997. He simply wasn't afforded much luck.

The rational person would admit that Muster realistically probably had three or four opportunities to win the French Open. He won it once, beating a host of great players. He won many other tournaments with strong fields too. Tennis at the highest level is extremely tough. Even great players lose.

Chang, Ivanisevic, Ferrero, Roddick, Moya and Stich, among others, also only managed to win a single slam. Players like Bruguera, Kafelnikov, Rafter and Safin managed to win two slams with, in some cases, inferior overall resumes to most of those single slam winners. Success doesn't follow a linear path for everyone. Muster's path was different. Let's do our best to be more rational and to evaluate the full picture. Let's do our best to challenge our biases.
 
Last edited:
We've gone over this numerous times before. Muster is compared to Nadal because he compiled two Nadal-like seasons of dominance.
Nobody would call a two year span of Nadal where he lost in a FO R16 a typical Nadal-dominance. In 2009 Nadal was 24-2 on clay, but nobody speaks of a very dominant year for him as he didn’t win the French. As I said, had Muster won the 96 FO I would agree with you. Soderling and Stich is the exact same situation, both R16, both against the later finalist.
In '95, Muster lost his first set of the tournament before clobbering French qualifier Solves. Muster then beat Pioline, Carlos Costa and Medvedev all in straight sets. That made 12 consecutive sets for Muster. His quarterfinal battle with Albert Costa was indeed a war. Costa, who was in the midst of becoming a leading clay contender, had just beaten Courier the round before. After edging Albert Costa in five, Muster obliterated Kafelnikov in the semis. Muster then straight setted Chang in the final.
Did Muster lose to prime Courier a couple of times at the French? Did Muster falter in the fifth set against Kuerten in the third round in '97? Did Muster face the unenviable task of needing to beat Agassi, Rafter and Bruguera in '94 just to reach the quarters? Did he beat Agassi in a five set war but fall to Rafter two days later? Did a struggling/injury rehab burned out Muster lose a five setter to Sampras way back in '91? Did Muster blow a golden opportunity against veteran Gomez in the 1990 semis?
you are overselling those guys a lot especially given the complete polarised conditions in the 90s. Pioline and Rafter, despite reaching semis once, had clay as their worst surface and Pioline wasn’t a world beater to begin with. Rafter in 94 was on the rise but still far away from his prime, and again that was on clay. Agassi was not good at all in the first half of 94, on clay he had lost in the first round of MC against Kafelnikov, in the quarter of Atlanta against mighty Malivai Washington and against world-beater Stefano Pescosolido (44-65 career record on clay) at Rome. So beating Agassi and Rafter in succession in 94, should not really be incredibly tough for a guy who supposedly has a claim of being the best dirtballer of the 90s.

As for 95: Losing a set against Solves is bad but I cut him slack as it was the first round, Pioline, see above. Med and Costa might have been good opponents and great stuff of Med winning Hamburg, but he was still inconsistent and lost to Sanchez, Fromberg, Furlan and Ivanisevic on clay prior to the French (all but Goran roughly around 50% winning percentage on clay for their whole careers). At the FO, he needed 5 sets to overcome clay giant Malivai Washington in the second round, same with Berasategui in the third. I give it to Muster, for R16 he was on the tougher side, but that he reached a final four years later is rather irrelevant here.

Against Costa, Thomas could well have lost and came within two games of losing against a guy who was 19. Again, that he won the whole thing 7 years later is barely relevant. He was not specifically tough for a quarterfinal at that time.
If you're more rational, you'll address the fact that Muster lost to Hall of Fame players and/or eventual finalists or champions every year between 1990 and 1997. He simply wasn't afforded much luck.
Rafter, Pete and Stich all have clay as their worst surface. Gomez was past prime, while Kuerten was pre-prime. The only expected losses are Courier in 92/93. However, again, a guy who is labelled by not few as the greatest clay courter of the 90s, should at least a couple of times overcome even the toughest competition. To discuss it all away with bad luck or saying a better guy like Courier stood in his way doesn’t cut it.
The rational person would admit that Muster realistically probably had three or four opportunities to win the French Open.
? How so? 1990, 1994, 1995, 1996 and 1997 are already 5, and why was it unrealistic in 1992 and 1993? Because there was a tough opponent in Courier? Well if Muster was the king of clay, a Courier shouldn’t have been an obstacle impossible to overcome, Bruguera also managed to beat him in an epic one.
Chang, Ivanisevic, Ferrero, Roddick, Moya and Stich, among others, also only managed to win a single slam. Players like Bruguera, Kafelnikov, Rafter and Safin managed to win two slams with, in some cases, inferior overall resumes to most of those single slam winners. Success doesn't follow a linear path for everyone. Muster's path was different. Let's do our best to be more rational and to evaluate the full picture. Let's do our best to challenge our biases.
Bruguera, Moya and Ferrero do not get the same clay praise as Muster, the others won their titles at other slams so they are hardly relevant here.

I do like Muster a lot, his fighting spirit, his habit of speaking his mind and don’t giving a crap about what others thought about him etc. but there is simply no way to discuss away that he severely underperformed at the FO for a clay player of his calibre and that he is definitely not the best dirt baller of the 90s.
 
Last edited:

buscemi

Hall of Fame
As for Wimbledon, sure, Muster could've made more effort there. His 0-4 record is often used as a major negative mark, but it's not much different than any of his European clay-centric contemporaries of the period. Wimbledon, with its lightning quick, unpredictable low bounce back then, was not viewed as important to those players. It was a period to rest.
That seems unfair to his clay-centric contemporaries. As noted, Muster was 0-4 at Wimbledon.

1993-1994 French Open champion Burguera was 4-4 and once made the fourth round.​
1997/2000/2001 French Open champion Kuerten was 7-5 and once made the QF.​
1998 French Open champion Moya was 7-8 and once made the fourth round​

Those were the European clay-centric French Open champions in the 1990s. 1990 French champion Gomez was South American and clay-centric, going 8-7 at Wimbledon and made a QF. 1996 champion Kaflenikov was European but not clay-centric and went 16-10 at Wimbledon, making a QF. The other French Open champions in the 1990s were Courier (made the Wimbledon final) and Agassi (won Wimbledon). If we go back to 1989 French Open champion, Chang was 18-14 at Wimbledon and made a QF. 1988 French Open champion Wilander was 25-10 at Wimbledon and made three QFs.

Basically, while Muster never won a match at Wimbledon and never made it out of the first round, everyone listed above made at least the fourth round, and no one other than Moya had a losing record.
 
That seems unfair to his clay-centric contemporaries. As noted, Muster was 0-4 at Wimbledon.

1993-1994 French Open champion Burguera was 4-4 and once made the fourth round.​
1997/2000/2001 French Open champion Kuerten was 7-5 and once made the QF.​
1998 French Open champion Moya was 7-8 and once made the fourth round​

Those were the European clay-centric French Open champions in the 1990s. 1990 French champion Gomez was South American and clay-centric, going 8-7 at Wimbledon and made a QF. 1996 champion Kaflenikov was European but not clay-centric and went 16-10 at Wimbledon, making a QF. The other French Open champions in the 1990s were Courier (made the Wimbledon final) and Agassi (won Wimbledon). If we go back to 1989 French Open champion, Chang was 18-14 at Wimbledon and made a QF. 1988 French Open champion Wilander was 25-10 at Wimbledon and made three QFs.

Basically, while Muster never won a match at Wimbledon and never made it out of the first round, everyone listed above made at least the fourth round, and no one other than Moya had a losing record.
True. The only one even worse was Chesnokov with 7 first round losses but he was not a FO champ and didn’t even really come close even though being clay centric. To be fair, @tkramer15 didn’t specify FO champions.
 

Mustard

Bionic Poster
Was Muster known for crazy intensity prior to the accident, or was that something brought on by the need to regain what was taken from him?
Muster had quite a lot of intensity before the accident, like the 1989 Australian Open semi final against Lendl in the boiling heat.

That has bothered me ever since. The loss in the final to journeyman mug DeWulf during Muster's peak year in 1995 is particularly inexplicable. He also lost the Kitzbuhel final that year to Costa, so it's very frustrating that during such an otherwise crushing season he happened to stumble at the finish line right in front of his home crowd twice. Surprisingly un-clutch for him. Imagine if he won 14 titles in '95? That would have been unprecedented.

At least the loss to Skoff in '88 is easier to digest because at least it was an all-Austrian final.
Dewulf was a tough matchup for Muster anyway. In June 1995, Dewulf was ranked at 140 in the world and had 3 match points against Muster (world number 4) in the first round of the St. Poelten clay-court tournament (in Austria). Muster got out of that, beating Dewulf, 4-6, 7-6, 6-3, and went on to win the tournament.

Nobody would call a two year span of Nadal where he lost in a FO R16 a typical Nadal-dominance. In 2009 Nadal was 24-2 on clay, but nobody speaks of a very dominant year for him as he didn’t win the French. As I said, had Muster won the 96 FO I would agree with you. Soderling and Stich is the exact same situation, both R16, both against the later finalist.
Muster was dominant on clay in 1996. He battered new French Open champion Kafelnikov 6-2, 6-2, 6-4 in July 1996 in the Stuttgart Outdoor final (then the equivalent of an ATP 500 event). Muster was 46-3 on clay in 1996, after being 65-2 on clay in 1995. Muster played more matches than Nadal in the years mentioned for Nadal. Nadal in 2005 is the only year that comes close to the 1995-1996 Muster schedule, when Nadal was 50-2 on clay for the year. Kuerten in 2001 did 36-3 on clay.

Also, it was the way that Muster won a lot of events, coming back from tough situations, even match points down. He won 12 tournaments in 1995, 6 of which he had been at least one match point down.

you are overselling those guys a lot especially given the complete polarised conditions in the 90s. Pioline and Rafter, despite reaching semis once, had clay as their worst surface and Pioline wasn’t a world beater to begin with. Rafter in 94 was on the rise but still far away from his prime, and again that was on clay.
Muster was vulnerable to serve and volley players.

Agassi was not good at all in the first half of 94, on clay he had lost in the first round of MC against Kafelnikov, in the quarter of Atlanta against mighty Malivai Washington and against world-beater Stefano Pescosolido (44-65 career record on clay) at Rome. So beating Agassi and Rafter in succession in 94, should not really be incredibly tough for a guy who supposedly has a claim of being the best dirtballer of the 90s.
At the time, Muster seemed to have Agassi's number, beating him 4 times in 5 matches.
 
Also, it was the way that Muster won a lot of events, coming back from tough situations, even match points down. He won 12 tournaments in 1995, 6 of which he had been at least one match point down.
That does not really speak for dominance imho if he was relatively often at the verge of losing.
Muster was vulnerable to serve and volley players.
I obviously know that but that should be an excuse? If you are vulnerable to one of the most predominant playing styles of your times this basically makes it hard to dominate on Nadal level to begin with.
At the time, Muster seemed to have Agassi's number, beating him 4 times in 5 matches.
What do you mean at that time? Before their FO meeting at 94 they had not played one single time for four years!!! Before they hadn’t played for another two. Those matches barely say anything in how they should have performed against each other in 1994.
 

Mustard

Bionic Poster
That does not really speak for dominance imho if he was relatively often at the verge of losing.
Yet the results say that he was, with 65 wins and 2 losses on clay in 1995, and 11 clay tournaments won. Nadal in 2005 had 50 wins and 2 losses on clay and 8 clay tournaments won, and he also came close to losing a match like the 2005 Rome final against Coria.

I obviously know that but that should be an excuse? If you are vulnerable to one of the most predominant playing styles of your times this basically makes it hard to dominate on Nadal level to begin with.
It's an explanation. Muster results in 1995-1996 on clay are Nadal-like, and he had that same aura. Even Kuerten never quite got that aura, because he played tennis like a surfer on the waves, where he'd have to find the groove, and he sometimes fell flat throughout on some days. Muster was relentless intensity and focus, as was Nadal.

Kuerten was 1 point away at the 2001 French Open from losing to a qualifier, Michael Russell, in straight sets. He saved the match point with a 26-shot rally, and worked his way into form, coming back to win in 5 sets, and eventually won the title.

What do you mean at that time?
At the time of the 1994 French Open, with Muster beating Agassi for the fourth time in 5 matches.

Before their FO meeting at 94 they had not played one single time for four years!!!
Since a 1990 Davis Cup semi final mauling, also on clay.

Before they hadn’t played for another two. Those matches barely say anything in how they should have performed against each other in 1994.
They had known each other at Bollettieri's and were friendly until 1994 despite their differences in personality. Muster usually beat Agassi. Agassi turned it around from the the summer of 1994, although all these matches over the next 2 years were on hardcourt, and Muster usually beat Agassi on clay before that.
 
Last edited:

martinezownsclay

Hall of Fame
One thing I will agree is anyone comparing him to Nadal on clay in even a single way is very much overrating him.

And yes as for being dominant on clay in 96, well it depends if you are willing to accept Nadal as dominant on clay in 2009. BorgtheGOAT's parallel there is perfect. If the latter is true then fine, but I sense most people would not say Nadal was dominant on clay in 2009, in fact I sense many would say he wasn't even the best on clay for that year, and would say Federer is, due to the RG result (not just losing but a R16), the identical result Muster had. Yes he was dominant on clay again that year, almost as much as 95, outside of RG, but that is a big outside.
 

martinezownsclay

Hall of Fame
Muster was dominant on clay in 1996. He battered new French Open champion Kafelnikov 6-2, 6-2, 6-4 in July 1996 in the Stuttgart Outdoor final (then the equivalent of an ATP 500 event).
A single match against Kafelnikov can't be a good barometer. First off Kafelnikov was the Wawrinka of the time, he only cared about majors, which is where people come back at me when I argue against him and how he should be evaluated due to never winning a single freaking Masters title, etc...Secondly Kafelnikov was always owned by the general really big guns of his time, much more than other players of similar achievements. That would be Sampras (particularly off of clay), Becker, Muster on clay, even Agassi (who he is a respectable 4-8 against but that is misleading, as 2 of the 4 wins were during a huge Agassi slump period, and 1 of the remaining 2 was RG 95 where Agassi was so badly injured he could barely walk and should not have even finished the match). And when he had a player he did not have a good record against, think Sampras except when they played on clay where Yevgeny knew Sampras was kind of weak, think even Tomas Johansson who totally owned him, think of Hewitt, and think of Muster given their 5 matches all coming on clay, he typically just gives up if he gets a bit behind early in the match. Plus Kafelnikov is not one of the true clay greats of that era, despite his RG title. All of Muster, Bruguera, Courier, Costa, Corretja (yes even without a RG title), Kuerten, Moya, Agassi, Chang, Ferrero, and arguably even Rios (although his case is iffy with his mediocre RG record, but his record outside RG is far superior to Kafelnikov) are all better.
 

Mustard

Bionic Poster
One thing I will agree is anyone comparing him to Nadal on clay in even a single way is very much overrating him.
Why? 1995-1996 was the same sort of clay dominance. 111-5 on clay over 2 calendar years. The aura was the same at that time.

And yes as for being dominant on clay in 96, well it depends if you are willing to accept Nadal as dominant on clay in 2009.
Not really the same equivalent, as Federer had won the French Open and Madrid in 2009, including beating Nadal in the 2009 Madrid final.

Nadal's loss to Soderling at the 2009 French Open was an even bigger upset than Muster losing to Stich at the 1996 French Open, though.
 
One thing I will agree is anyone comparing him to Nadal on clay in even a single way is very much overrating him.

And yes as for being dominant on clay in 96, well it depends if you are willing to accept Nadal as dominant on clay in 2009. BorgtheGOAT's parallel there is perfect. If the latter is true then fine, but I sense most people would not say Nadal was dominant on clay in 2009, in fact I sense many would say he wasn't even the best on clay for that year, and would say Federer is, due to the RG result (not just losing but a R16), the identical result Muster had. Yes he was dominant on clay again that year, almost as much as 95, outside of RG, but that is a big outside.
Absolutely correct. Nobody speaks of 09 as a very dominant year for Nadal.

Again as I said: had Muster won the 96 FO then I would accept that for a short period of two years he had an aura “similar” to Nadal (I mean 115-4 over two years with two RG yea I will take it). However, losing a R16 against a guy who didn’t make much noise at RG for his whole career (even less then Sod who at least backed it up the next year before he had to unexpectedly retire), makes it moot to me.

Nadal was 24-2 on clay in 2009 while Muster was 46-3 in 1996 but do we really think Nadal couldn’t have reached that as well had he cared to play smaller tournaments?

At the masters they were pretty even, both won two out of three (we can quibble Muster didn’t play the third one while Nadal did and lost the final but let’s not be to nitty-gritty). As you said, the parallel is perfect and Nadal’s 2009 is not seen as one of his dominant years.
 
Not really the same equivalent, as Federer had won the French Open and Madrid in 2009, including beating Nadal in the 2009 Madrid final.
Nadal only lost twice that year against the FO winner and the FO runner-up. Muster in 1996 lost against Moya, Gaudenzi and Stich. I can’t really see why Muster in 1996 should be any more dominant than Nadal in 2009 other than that he maybe lacked a competitor for “best of the year” on the level of Fed (Kafelnikov was more of a fluke winner with his 57.8 winning % on clay). Had Stich won that FO final that would already have looked differently.
 
Why? 1995-1996 was the same sort of clay dominance. 111-5 on clay over 2 calendar years. The aura was the same at that time.
Compared to which two years of Nadal? 2015/16? 2005/06? 2007/08?
The difference here in comparing Muster’s 95/96 run to any good/great two year span of Nadal is simply on how they performed on the biggest stage, the FO.

I will give you that outside of it, they might be similar, Muster won both clay masters in both years so not much to scoff at (Nadal never had so many matches where he had to defend match-points though).

When it mattered most however, Muster lost in a round 16 against a relatively weak clay player in one year and was two games away of losing in the other. Most if not all of Nadal’s two-year periods where he won FO in both years are obviously better, but arguably also 2008/2009 and 2009/2010. Sure, when you take 2014/15 or 2015/16 then Muster will be better, but this is not what we are talking here I would think.
 

Mustard

Bionic Poster
Nadal only lost twice that year against the FO winner and the FO runner-up. Muster in 1996 lost against Moya, Gaudenzi and Stich.
Muster lost to Moya in his 19th match in 26 days, having beaten Moya in each of the previous 3 weeks. That loss ended a clay-court winning streak of 38 wins in a row.

Which is obviously the case because Muster was never, not even in 95/96 as dominant as Nadal.
Why do you keep saying this? Muster was dominating on clay in 1995-1996 and had the same aura of dominance on the surface as Nadal did a decade later. I remember it clearly. Yes, he came close to losing many matches, but he nearly always won them, making him intimidating.

Compared to which two years of Nadal? 2015/16? 2005/06? 2007/08?
The difference here in comparing Muster’s 95/96 run to any good/great two year span of Nadal is simply on how they performed on the biggest stage, the FO.
It isn't that simple. Muster played far more clay matches than Nadal. The tour was a different dynamic in the mid 1990s to the mid 2000s. Also, Muster had to play more on clay because playing too much on hardcourt in a short period would cause knee problems.

I don't know why you insist on making a huge deal out of all this, when Muster's numbers speak for themselves. He won 18 clay titles in 1995-1996 combined, including nearly all the biggest clay tournaments played in that period, while playing far more matches than what players (Nadal included) played on clay a decade later. Nadal in 2005-2006 (exactly a decade later) was 76-2 on clay (12 clay tournaments won), compared to Muster's 111-5 (18 clay tournaments won).
 
Muster lost to Moya in his 19th match in 26 days, having beaten Moya in each of the previous 3 weeks. That loss ended a clay-court winning streak of 38 wins in a row.


Why do you keep saying this? Muster was dominating on clay in 1995-1996 and had the same aura of dominance on the surface as Nadal did a decade later. I remember it clearly. Yes, he came close to losing many matches, but he nearly always won them, making him intimidating.


It isn't that simple. Muster played far more clay matches than Nadal. The tour was a different dynamic in the mid 1990s to the mid 2000s. Also, Muster had to play more on clay because playing too much on hardcourt in a short period would cause knee problems.

I don't know why you insist on making a huge deal out of all this, when Muster's numbers speak for themselves. He won 18 clay titles in 1995-1996 combined, including nearly all the biggest clay tournaments played in that period, while playing far more matches than what players (Nadal included) played on clay a decade later. Nadal in 2005-2006 (exactly a decade later) was 76-2 on clay (12 clay tournaments won), compared to Muster's 111-5 (18 clay tournaments won).
Let’s put it to rest we will never agree on that one. All I say is that Muster underperformed at the FO and that comparisons to Nadal don’t make sense to me not even restricted to two years (mostly because of the FO failure). However, you and the other poster never admit even the first point but come up with all kind of exceptions and, to be honest, imho excuses, even though it is crystal clear to me that a guy who won six clay masters and was labelled the best clay courter of the 90s should have won more than one title and never ever reaching another final.

Are all his losses acceptable or explainable when looked at separately? Yes maybe. But in total all together? Nope, not for someone with this reputation.
 

tkramer15

Semi-Pro
Let’s put it to rest we will never agree on that one. All I say is that Muster underperformed at the FO and that comparisons to Nadal don’t make sense to me not even restricted to two years (mostly because of the FO failure). However, you and the other poster never admit even the first point but come up with all kind of exceptions and, to be honest, imho excuses, even though it is crystal clear to me that a guy who won six clay masters and was labelled the best clay courter of the 90s should have won more than one title and never ever reaching another final.

Are all his losses acceptable or explainable when looked at separately? Yes maybe. But in total all together? Nope, not for someone with this reputation.
You're simply putting WAY too much emphasis on one match at one tournament. No matter how important a slam is, it's still one tournament. It's a tiny part of the entire picture. For you to essentially devalue all of Muster's accomplishments because he didn't win a second slam, speaks volumes.

He lost to Hall of Famers at Roland Garros. He wasn't upset in the first round by unknowns. Would you rather Muster have lost to unknowns?

NOBODY in the '90s won more than two French Opens. Courier and Bruguera won two apiece. Neither dominated the entire clay scene anywhere close to what Muster did. Bruguera did play a similar schedule. He won far less. Muster did things differently. Players don't follow the same paths or hold the same mindsets.

Nobody here is putting Muster on the level of Sampras, Agassi, Becker, Edberg, or Courier. But yes, by almost any objective measure, he belongs in the next tier of '90s greats. @Mustard nailed plenty of points that I won't rehash again. But I'll just say that we can't retroactively diminish Muster or someone else just because Nadal has achieved those results times 10+. You make it sound as if Nadal nearly triple bageled everyone on clay and then want to devalue Muster because he won some thrillers or had battles with Albert Costa. Neither take is valid, nor rational.
 
Last edited:
You're simply putting WAY too much emphasis on one match at one tournament. No matter how important a slam is, it's still one tournament. It's a tiny part of the entire picture. For you to essentially devalue all of Muster's accomplishments because he didn't win a second slam, speaks volumes.
So saying that he underperformed at the FO for a player of his calibre and clay reputation and saying that I disagree with any comparison to Nadal (who is THE single greatest player on one specific surface in the whole history of the sport) for you equals devaluing all of Muster’s accomplishments? Wow just wow.

To make it clear, he did play great 95/96 clay seasons but neither you nor Mustard have admitted that he underperformed at the FO in general over his career (the actual topic of the thread). If you did, show me the post, might be that I missed it.

As for the second point: no matter how great he was, when talking Nadal we are talking the highest level there is. There are miles of space between saying he never was as dominant as Nadal and discrediting all his accomplishments.
He lost to Hall of Famers at Roland Garros. He wasn't upset in the first round by unknowns. Would you rather Muster have lost to unknowns?
You cannot simply say HOF without context. Other than Kuerten and Courier all those players are HOFs because their prowess on other surfaces and have clay as their weakest surface. And even with those two I expect better than going a combined 0-3 for a guy who has a claim of being the best of the 90s.

Same as with Mustard we should leave it here, we will never see eye-to-eye with each other on that one.
 

Mustard

Bionic Poster
To make it clear, he did play great 95/96 clay seasons but neither you nor Mustard have admitted that he underperformed at the FO in general over his career (the actual topic of the thread). If you did, show me the post, might be that I missed it.
Of course Muster underachieved at the French Open. That's obvious.
 

tkramer15

Semi-Pro
That seems unfair to his clay-centric contemporaries. As noted, Muster was 0-4 at Wimbledon.

1993-1994 French Open champion Burguera was 4-4 and once made the fourth round.​
1997/2000/2001 French Open champion Kuerten was 7-5 and once made the QF.​
1998 French Open champion Moya was 7-8 and once made the fourth round​

Those were the European clay-centric French Open champions in the 1990s. 1990 French champion Gomez was South American and clay-centric, going 8-7 at Wimbledon and made a QF. 1996 champion Kaflenikov was European but not clay-centric and went 16-10 at Wimbledon, making a QF. The other French Open champions in the 1990s were Courier (made the Wimbledon final) and Agassi (won Wimbledon). If we go back to 1989 French Open champion, Chang was 18-14 at Wimbledon and made a QF. 1988 French Open champion Wilander was 25-10 at Wimbledon and made three QFs.

Basically, while Muster never won a match at Wimbledon and never made it out of the first round, everyone listed above made at least the fourth round, and no one other than Moya had a losing record.
You have to go deeper than that and evaluate context. I'm not talking about just the French Open winners. I'm talking about those who prioritized the clay court season and who excelled most during that period. With some minor exceptions, most players made similar effort to Muster. While I feel that Muster should have played Wimbledon between 1995 and 1998, I don't know how his overall resume would've been changed had he won a match or two. If Muster goes 2-5 at Wimbledon instead of 0-4, is he viewed differently?

Wilander, Agassi and Courier are clearly on a different plane historically than Muster. Kafelnikov and Chang are in Muster's tier, but each was more adept on other surfaces. For me, Kafelnikov was the most consistent all around performer on all surfaces from 1994 through about 2001. I'm not talking about them. I'm talking about the following guys:

- Bruguera, like Muster, made just four career appearances at Wimbledon. Three of his four victories came at the 1994 event. Bruguera never advanced past the rd of 16 at a major other than RG.
- Moya made eight total appearances. Three of his seven match victories came in 2004 after the grass blend had been changed to afford baseliners more time. He went 7-8 overall.
- Corretja, like Muster, made just four career Wimbledon appearances. He went 2-4.
- Albert Costa made five career Wimbledon appearances. He went 2-5.
- Rios made just three career Wimbledon appearances. He went 3-3. All three victories came in 1997.
- Mantilla made eight career Wimbledon appearances. He went 5-8.
- Berasategui made only one career Wimbledon appearance at the end of his career in 2000. He lost his opening match.
- Medvedev went 9-9, reaching the fourth round once.

Obviously, we could go even further into the depths of '90s clay specialists to further this point. Wimbledon was not a priority for these guys. Because of the slickness and unpredictable bounce, it was not viewed as a worthwhile venture. Muster and others viewed the two week Wimbledon as a time to recuperate and recharge for the rest of the summer, which included more clay events followed by the US hard court swing.
 

tkramer15

Semi-Pro
So saying that he underperformed at the FO for a player of his calibre and clay reputation and saying that I disagree with any comparison to Nadal (who is THE single greatest player on one specific surface in the whole history of the sport) for you equals devaluing all of Muster’s accomplishments? Wow just wow.

To make it clear, he did play great 95/96 clay seasons but neither you nor Mustard have admitted that he underperformed at the FO in general over his career (the actual topic of the thread). If you did, show me the post, might be that I missed it.

As for the second point: no matter how great he was, when talking Nadal we are talking the highest level there is. There are miles of space between saying he never was as dominant as Nadal and discrediting all his accomplishments.

You cannot simply say HOF without context. Other than Kuerten and Courier all those players are HOFs because their prowess on other surfaces and have clay as their weakest surface. And even with those two I expect better than going a combined 0-3 for a guy who has a claim of being the best of the 90s.

Same as with Mustard we should leave it here, we will never see eye-to-eye with each other on that one.
You have said multiple times that you would give Muster credit had he defended his French title and finished the 1995-96 seasons with a clay record of 115-4 instead of 111-5. I read that as you essentially devalue the remainder of his wins because he didn't win a second French. Is that not what you insinuated?

On several occasions, you even seemed to try to diminish Muster's 1995 French title because he won a five setter over Albert Costa, an eventual French winner who was clearly among the best clay court players in the latter half of the '90s.

Muster won 21 of 24 sets in that tournament and clobbered Pioline, Medvedev, Kafelnikov and Chang. During that '95 clay campaign, Muster had beaten Becker, Bruguera, Kafelnikov, Chang, Ferreira, Berasategui and everyone else during a run of SIX consecutive tournament wins -- 35 matches in a row. Only Djokovic and Federer have surpassed that streak since. And yet, you harp on how he almost lost to Albert Costa in his 28th match victory in a row.

Yes, we can agree that Muster's French results do not measure up to what one might expect based on his other success. Sure, he underperformed relative to his 1995-96 dominance. But here is where context is required. You call everything an excuse. Well, no. Context and detail matter. The guy was hit by a car in 1989. He returned quickly and excelled, but burned out and spent basically two years rebuilding. Muster's career did not follow a linear path. What he ended up with was a pretty tight window of realistic opportunity to contend for the French. He won it once. He won a lot of other tournaments.

Again, would you rather Muster have lost to lower-ranked unknown players at the French? When you describe clay as the weakest surface for someone like Rafter or Stich or Sampras, you have to realize that each of those guys was capable of beating anyone on any day on any surface? Each had success at big events on clay. And it is ONE tournament. Yes, it's one of the four biggest. But when you limit your evaluation to a single event, you're inevitably going to have outliers and information that may not match the larger body of work.

Once again, I am NOT putting Muster on the level of Sampras, Agassi, Becker, Edberg or Courier. He is somewhere in that next tier along with Chang, Kafelnikov, Ivanisevic, Bruguera, Rafter, Stich, Moya, etc. This "overrated" or "underrated" label is useless. Muster's full body of work speaks for itself. Stop trying to diminish it.
 
You have said multiple times that you would give Muster credit had he defended his French title and finished the 1995-96 seasons with a clay record of 115-4 instead of 111-5. I read that as you essentially devalue the remainder of his wins because he didn't win a second French. Is that not what you insinuated
I said had he won the FO 96 your comparison with NADAL would be legit imho for that specific two year period not that I generally discredit his seasons without it. Obviously that was one of the greatest two season runs ever on clay but you are comparing it to the BEST OF THE BEST here who won the FO in next to every two season span of his career. You say all the time it was only one match but it was still the biggest tournament where Muster in general had underperformed. Nobody makes much noise about Nadal’s 2009 even though his results are basically identical to Muster’s 96.
On several occasions, you even seemed to try to diminish Muster's 1995 French title because he won a five setter over Albert Costa, an eventual French winner who was clearly among the best clay court players in the latter half of the '90s.

Muster won 21 of 24 sets in that tournament and clobbered Pioline, Medvedev, Kafelnikov and Chang. During that '95 clay campaign, Muster had beaten Becker, Bruguera, Kafelnikov, Chang, Ferreira, Berasategui and everyone else during a run of SIX consecutive tournament wins -- 35 matches in a row. Only Djokovic and Federer have surpassed that streak since. And yet, you harp on how he almost lost to Albert Costa in his 28th match victory in a row.
Again: I am diminishing it (or better said put it into proportion) when talking the Nadal comparison. While Muster’s W/L record was great, in terms of dominance and aura he was on the verge of losing several times and had to defend match points several times.
Nadal has won the FO four times without dropping a set and was only ever pushed to five sets three times in 18 years. So Muster’s 95 FO run is maybe as dominant as one of Nadal’s mediocre runs but it is not that he cruised through all matches.
You call everything an excuse. Well, no. Context and detail matter.
Ok let’s try it again. Muster often is in the run of being the best clay courter of the 90s, with guys like Courier, Kuerten (even though not completely from the 90s) and Bruguera as competition. Actually, not few put him as THE BEST here.

Against the three others he is a combined 0-3 at the FO (caveat he never played Sergi). The other losses were against Oldtimer Gomes, Pete who wasn’t great on clay especially not in 1991, Rafter who was green and had clay as his weakest surface and Stich who also had clay as his weakest surface and was post prime. This already gives him a pass on the Mantilla loss (yea this was past clay prime Muster, but still his third best FO run) and his early losses before 1990 including against Becker.
Again, all these losses might be explainable or forgivable individually, but in aggregate it is tough to defend all those and still claim that guy has any reason to be believed the best of the 90s. No matter context, detail whatsoever. This does NOT mean he wasn’t a great dirtballer but he can still be overrated if people are calling him THE best or compare him with Nadal.
Again, would you rather Muster have lost to lower-ranked unknown players at the French? When you describe clay as the weakest surface for someone like Rafter or Stich or Sampras, you have to realize that each of those guys was capable of beating anyone on any day on any surface? Each had success at big events on clay.
Sorry but this stretches it enormously. Sure theoretically they were capable of beating anyone (I doubt though any of them would ever have beaten Nadal on clay if it was any half decent version), but please….
Rafter never won a clay tournament in his career and when he played Muster hadn’t even won a single tournament at all yet. Kudos for reaching a RG semi and a Rome final but please don’t pretend that in 94 he was any force to reckon with on clay or even a dangerous floater. He shouldn’t have put any obstacle to a guy like Muster on clay and we both know it.
Not sure what you are defining as success at big clay events. If it is occasionally reaching latter rounds then sure, but Rafter, Sampras Stich sounds waaaay tougher on paper than it actually was given the time and surface Muster played them.
 
Dewulf was a tough matchup for Muster anyway. In June 1995, Dewulf was ranked at 140 in the world and had 3 match points against Muster (world number 4) in the first round of the St. Poelten clay-court tournament (in Austria).
this goes along with my general doubts about the nature of Muster's dominance, given the "match points saved" stat that's mentioned so often. why would such a dominant clay courter need to keep saving these match points, and why would they need losses against 100+ ranked players explained away by matchup disadvantages? does that term even apply if the players being compared are so many tiers of skill apart?
Muster was vulnerable to serve and volley players
when i think of dominant clay courters like Nadal, Borg, and Lendl, along with other clay greats like Wilander and Bruguera, one of the first skills that comes to mind after rally tolerance is ATG-tier passing shots. not having sufficient passing shots to beat numerous net rushers on clay seems like a pretty big hole in a claim to clay court dominance.
Kuerten was 1 point away at the 2001 French Open was losing to a qualifier, Michael Russell, in straight sets. He saved the match point with a 26-shot rally, and worked his way into form, coming back to win in 5 sets, and eventually the whole title.
i think it makes more sense for a relatively aggressive shotmaker like Kuerten to have this kind of volatility than a relative grinder like Muster (assuming a comparable level in whatever sense you want). it's also more impressive if the former could rein in that volatility in the biggest events.
Muster was 46-3 on clay in 1996, after being 65-2 on clay in 1995. Muster played more matches than Nadal in the years mentioned for Nadal. Nadal in 2005 is the only year that comes close to the 1995-1996 Muster schedule, when Nadal was 50-2 on clay for the year.
i feel like these match stats, more than anything about RG or dominance, should show why the comparisons to Nadal don't make sense. their seasons looked completely different due to the differing incentives and possibilities of their respective eras. makes more sense to me to say that Muster was doing his own thing uniquely well rather than doing a knockoff Nadal thing (never mind a Nadal-equivalent thing).
 
Last edited:

Mustard

Bionic Poster
i feel like these match stats, more than anything about RG or dominance, should show why the comparisons to Nadal don't make sense. their seasons looked completely different due to the differing incentives and possibilities of their respective eras. makes more sense to me to say that Muster was doing his own thing uniquely well rather than doing a knockoff Nadal thing (never mind a Nadal-equivalent thing).
If we just count the traditional clay-court season of today, then Muster was 35-0 on clay in 1995, up to the end of the French Open. In 1996, it was 34-2.

By Nadal equivalent, I mean the aura of dominance that Muster had on clay in 1995-1996 being like Nadal. Winning matches that he came close to losing only increased the feeling, not the opposite.
 

Musterrific

Hall of Fame
One thing that frustrates me is that even when you look only at Muster's peak year, 1995, despite winning an insane 12 titles out of 14 finals, he had some shockingly weak results sprinkled around that never get talked about. In particular, his pre-clay season results from January to April were lousy - I mean, losing to a total mug doubles specialist Eltingh in the third round of the AO is a joke. I think his best effort was a generic QF showing in Indian Wells. Like, there was absolutely no indication at that point of the season that he was about to go on an absolute tear.

Then, even in the midst of his total clay court destruction, he had a lop-sided first round loss in Gstaad to Corretja, who was otherwise Muster's total pidgeon. How was that even possible given where his game was at? Then not even showing up at Wimbledon because he felt dissed by their seeding system? Moronic, petty decision - it's undignified for a top 5 player in the midst of a crushingly dominant run, filled with confidence, to skip the sport's most prestigious tournament because your feelings are hurt. He only hurt himself by doing that, further cementing the impression that he was utterly useless on grass, which people have used as ammunition against him ever since.

His results during the US summer hardcourt swing were mediocre at best. He played fairly well to get to the 4th round of the US Open, where I, and no doubt many others, thought he had a more than even shot to get past a diminished Courier, who by that point in his career was on the down swing. I thought surely this beastly version of Muster would improve upon his impressive USO run in '93, when he was a match point away from making the semis, seeing how he was now a better player in every category...but Courier destroyed him in straights, even including a bagel for good measure. I was utterly confused by that embarrassing result at the time. Instead of taking advantage of the opportunity and asserting his new found dominance as an elite player, he let himself get meekly trounced instead of avenging his painful '92 and '93 RG losses to Courier. Humiliating stuff.

His fall indoor results after that were total Jekyll & Hyde type stuff. A third run to the final in Vienna in front of his home crowd - surely this would finally be his moment of triumph, as the number 3 player in the world now, having a great season and facing an unknown mug in the final, but no, he uncharacteristically flubs it and loses fairly routinely in 4 sets. I'm pretty sure that was Dewulf's only career title too. Such an embarrassing result for Muster - why did it have to be at home???

And then, even though he put together that unexpectedly great result by winning the masters tournament in Essen the following week, where he famously beat Sampras in the semis in straights (how do you go from losing to a bum like Dewulf to beating the indoor GOAT in the space of a week on your worst surface??), he then completely bombed the rest of the season, losing 5 straight matches (all meekly in straights too, I think).

How do you go from great results to such shockingly poor ones immediately as one of the best players?? It's mind boggling.
 
Last edited:

Mustard

Bionic Poster
Muster didn't play the US hardcourt summer in 1995, apart from the US Open itself. He actually played clay up to that point. After losing to Corretja in his first clay loss of 1995 in Gstaad, he won Stuttgart Outdoor (including from 6-7, 1-5 down against Bruguera), briefly played at Amsterdam before pulling out, runner-up at Kitzbuhel (where Albert Costa beat him in 5 sets), and then won San Marino and Umag. He went from winning the 1995 Umag final against Carlos Costa, which Muster won 3-6, 7-6, 6-4, after being championship points down, to flying from Croatia over to New York City for the 1995 US Open.

In 1996, Muster tried a different approach. playing Cincinnati and Toronto before the US Open.

Dewulf won 2 career titles at ATP level. 1995 Vienna against Muster, and 1997 Kitzbuhel against Alonso.
 

martinezownsclay

Hall of Fame
Courier in that 95 US Open match with Muster was on fire. It is well known there was no love lost between those two guys, and I think Courier was peeved everyone had already written him off as a contender, and he wanted that match to make a statement. He also had to back up his comments that he would have beaten Muster at the 95 French had he gotten past Costa (which I strongly disagree with, I suspect on clay by that point Muster wins, despite the US Open result) which would look embarassing for him months later if he couldn't even beat him now on a fast hard court. So he was extra charged up for that match, in very overpowering form, playing even better than the semis where he took Sampras to 4 tough sets, or even the quarters where he upset Chang in straight sets. Muster was completely unprepared for how well Courier would play, and took to the 3rd set to show any resistance at all. It was just a bad situation for Muster, and a bad draw. If he was in Chang's quarter there is a good chance he can make the semis given how much he owned Chang over the years.
 

Musterrific

Hall of Fame
Courier in that 95 US Open match with Muster was on fire. It is well known there was no love lost between those two guys, and I think Courier was peeved everyone had already written him off as a contender, and he wanted that match to make a statement. He also had to back up his comments that he would have beaten Muster at the 95 French had he gotten past Costa (which I strongly disagree with, I suspect on clay by that point Muster wins, despite the US Open result) which would look embarassing for him months later if he couldn't even beat him now on a fast hard court. So he was extra charged up for that match, in very overpowering form, playing even better than the semis where he took Sampras to 4 tough sets, or even the quarters where he upset Chang in straight sets. Muster was completely unprepared for how well Courier would play, and took to the 3rd set to show any resistance at all. It was just a bad situation for Muster, and a bad draw. If he was in Chang's quarter there is a good chance he can make the semis given how much he owned Chang over the years.
I think he definitely would have beaten Chang if he'd gotten past Courier, but Sampras would have blown him away in the semis.
 

martinezownsclay

Hall of Fame
I think he definitely would have beaten Chang if he'd gotten past Courier, but Sampras would have blown him away in the semis.

I tend to agree, but he did beat Sampras in a Masters final on carpet later that year, so you never know. That was a super impressive win, and another example of being Muster underrated a bit off clay (I think more than being underrated on by far his best surface of clay itself). Sampras is a whole different beast in slams though, so it would be a whole different proposition to Essen. It is shame he never made a semi final at the US Open, he was certainly a good enough hard court player too if he got the right draw. He did make a semi final in Australia, which was generally his weaker hard court slam surface of the two. And gave Sampras a quite good match, despite it deceivingly being straight sets.
 

buscemi

Hall of Fame
If you ever want to see Michael Chang at his most frustrated, watch his 1995 US Open quarter final against Jim Courier.
Right up there with his 1997 U.S. Open semifinal with Rafter. He was the clear favorite to take the title and end his eight year Slamless stretch with Sampras out, and yet he looked completely helpless against Rafter, effectively ending his last chance to win a second Slam.
 

martinezownsclay

Hall of Fame
Right up there with his 1997 U.S. Open semifinal with Rafter. He was the clear favorite to take the title and end his eight year Slamless stretch with Sampras out, and yet he looked completely helpless against Rafter, effectively ending his last chance to win a second Slam.

Chang was dunzo after that match. I was never a fan of him, as I found his "god is rooting for me" philosophies annoying, but I did feel for him that day. You could feel the pain, it was palatable all the way through.
 

Mustard

Bionic Poster
Chang was dunzo after that match. I was never a fan of him, as I found his "god is rooting for me" philosophies annoying, but I did feel for him that day. You could feel the pain, it was palatable all the way through.
Chang did beat Rafter in a Davis Cup semi final match soon after the bad 1997 US Open semi final loss, but Chang was on the downward slope after that. There was also a bizarre knee injury for Chang at 1998 Indian Wells (where he was 2-time defending champion) involving water sprinklers. He tried to beef up his serving to make up for losing some speed, but it didn't really work. Tennis was changing again too, which also harmed Muster as he was fiddling about with different racquets on different surfaces. In hindsight, Kuerten at the 1997 French Open is very interesting, with him using a luxilon poly string, and is likely the reason why Muster, Medvedev, Kafelnikov and Bruguera simply couldn't keep their momentum up against Kuerten.
 

martinezownsclay

Hall of Fame
Chang did beat Rafter in a Davis Cup semi final match soon after the bad 1997 US Open semi final loss, but Chang was on the downward slope after that. There was also a bizarre knee injury for Chang at 1998 Indian Wells (where he was 2-time defending champion) involving water sprinklers. He tried to beef up his serving to make up for losing some speed, but it didn't really work. Tennis was changing again too, which also harmed Muster as he was fiddling about with different racquets on different surfaces. In hindsight, Kuerten at the 1997 French Open is very interesting, with him using a luxilon poly string, and is likely the reason why Muster, Medvedev, Kafelnikov and Bruguera simply couldn't keep their momentum up against Kuerten.

Well not Bruguera, as he just never had any momentum in his match with Kuerten from start to finish, but those others probably yeah.
 

Musterrific

Hall of Fame
I tend to agree, but he did beat Sampras in a Masters final on carpet later that year, so you never know. That was a super impressive win, and another example of being Muster underrated a bit off clay (I think more than being underrated on by far his best surface of clay itself). Sampras is a whole different beast in slams though, so it would be a whole different proposition to Essen. It is shame he never made a semi final at the US Open, he was certainly a good enough hard court player too if he got the right draw. He did make a semi final in Australia, which was generally his weaker hard court slam surface of the two. And gave Sampras a quite good match, despite it deceivingly being straight sets.
I guess in theory he would have had a chance, but Sampras at the US Open during his peak years, like 95, was almost impossible to beat. Even Agassi couldn't do it.

Also, Muster made 2 AO semis - 89 and 97.
 
@magnut - do you know any more about Muster’s racquet specs from the “extended era”? Man, he must have hit a heavy ball with the extra leverage of an extended frame.

Muster was a beast, and a very special part of tennis. He was like an insane animal during points, but when play stopped he measured it with being an incredibly friendly person and doing good discussions on the court.

The only other guy who has managed the balance of fighting for every ball in a brutal way while also having a good attitude on court in the same special way is Nadal imo.
 

martinezownsclay

Hall of Fame
I guess in theory he would have had a chance, but Sampras at the US Open during his peak years, like 95, was almost impossible to beat. Even Agassi couldn't do it.

Also, Muster made 2 AO semis - 89 and 97.

Yeah the only one to beat Sampras in a late round at the US Open from 93-99 was Rafter in 98, and I think injury played a big part in that loss. I truly think he wins both 94 and 97 too for sure if he gets to the semis, or just gets past the round of 16 matches he lost both years. As well as 99 if he plays, and if he ever loses, it would have to be before the semis or quarters just like 94 and 97.

Post 99 he could be beatable in finals now, due to the quick turnaround from semis and finals being challenging on any older player.
 
Top