Tuesday, 20 October 2015


Without a doubt one of the most unusual defaults from a World Tennis tournament final would have to have been at the Lipton Championships in Florida, 1989. Thomas Muster was ranked number 7 and he had been in red hot form all tournament particularly in his semi final against number 12 seed Yannick Noah of France.
Back then the Lipton Championships were considered the 'fifth Grand Slam' and every player who was fit and healthy would turn up. The other thing that made it so unique was the fact that it was also a best of five sets format, the ultimate test of mind and body.
World number 1 Ivan Lendl had cruised through his half of the draw with the loss of just 44 games in his six matches which broken down is an average score of 6-2, 6-2, 6-3, roughly anyhow. Muster had lost just two sets before his epic semi final against Noah the 1983 French Open champion where he came back from two sets down to win in five, 5-7, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-2. The final was sure to be a contest of epic proportions.
There are conflicting reports on when the accident occurred however from what I recall Thomas stopped on the side of the road to grab some food from the boot of his car when he was struck from behind by a drunk driver. The accident put an end to his quest of a potential classic match with Lendl and it put the Austrian star out of the game for around six months.
If ever there was a picture that could inspire a generation of tennis players it would have to be the one of Muster practicing with the aid of a chair designed to take his weight and allow him to still hit balls while sitting down. It was one of the most fascinating things I have ever witnessed in tennis and gave 'heart' a whole new meaning. Nothing was going to stop Thomas from achieving what he wanted to achieve in World Tennis.
Seven years later Muster would become the best tennis player in the World and won a dozen tournaments to back up that ranking. He also claimed one of the best ever winning streaks on the European clay by winning 40 straight matches.
The Austrian was a man to be reckoned with despite his near career ending accident in Florida but just like the American Derrick Rostagno who was lucky enough to change his flight just before it crashed killing everyone on board he was afforded a second chance in life.
Sometimes a near miss can change one's perception of life in general and I believe that Thomas Muster practiced even harder once his leg healed from that potentially fatal accident.
Some cruise through and accept what is given to them but not Thomas Muster. He was a man who made up for lost time, like no other I have ever seen in World tennis......

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