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Champions Tennis League 2015: I grew up on clay, we learnt to play on that surface, says Thomas Muster

For somebody who won 40 out of his 44 titles on clay courts, Thomas Muster rightfully earned the nickname of ‘King of Clay’ in the 1990s.

thomas muster, tennis, champions tennis league, ctl, chandgarh tennis match, india news, latest news, sports Thomas Muster of Raipur Rangers during a press conference at a city hotel. (Source: Express Photo by Kamleshwar Singh)

Just before the Raipur Rangers team photo shoot earlier this week, Thomas Muster was approached by one of the Champions Tennis League officials and asked to take part in a video quiz for fans and the website.

Former French Open champion Muster slowly went to his chair and as he sat down with the mic, the 48-year-old picked his tennis racquet to put it alongside his chair. Five minutes later, the Austrian answered all the 10 questions apart from playing the quick question-and-answer round before one of the team-members of Raipur Rangers said, “He is the specialist.”

For somebody who won 40 out of his 44 titles on the ATP tour on clay courts, including the French Open, Muster rightfully earned the nickname of ‘King of Clay’ in the 1990s. And his 422 wins out of a total of 549 matches on the clay courts did mean that he was a specialist on the clay courts.

And as one talks about the clay specialist, the former French Open champion is quick to point out, “There is no specialist and it’s more open now. We used to have an indoor season, a hard court season and a clay court season. Now it’s pretty much mixed together. Twenty years ago, clay court players had to make all their points in four months. There was no way a player like me could have won against guys like Ivanosivic on grass courts as big serve was always a threat. There is more time to make points. We had the average points season. Now you can play as many tournaments you like and gain points,” said Muster, captain of the Raipur Rangers in CTL, while speaking to Chandigarh Newsline.

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As the second oldest player to attain the number one ranking in the 1990s after John Newcombe, Muster started his days playing on clay courts in Austria. His first and only Grand Slam win came in the form of the French Open title in 1995, which was also preceded by a 40-match winning run that year. As some of the current players in the league and junior players ask him about playing on the baseline to perform well on clay, Muster is quick to dispel that myth.

“I grew up on clay. We learnt to play on that surface. The technique one develops comes from regularly playing on that surface. It’s a long story but the key was to make less mistakes and fight till the last point. The way you move. I always feel people say you can play only on baseline. But I believe when you play on clay, you got to serve well, you got to be in good physical shape and you need to hit forehand as well as backhand,” said the player, who is captaining Raipur Rangers.

A resident of Austria as well as Australia, Muster currently also runs a manufacturing business of sunglasses apart from real estate and occasionally flying helicopters and playing drums, an activity which he says comes from the fact that he used to do a lot more with the ball.

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Muster has not seen a clay court yet in India and seeing the tennis infrastructure in countries like Sweden, Austria, France and Spain, Muster has one advice for India: “I have not seen any clay courts here. This country has a lot to offer financially. Players go to train in countries like Spain, USA and elsewhere. But with the amount of players in the country, you can create a very good system. India needs to develop a programme like Spain or Sweden and France used to have and you got to have the desire to achieve something.”

First published on: 29-11-2015 at 08:25:13 am
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