There is only one King of Clay and that is Rafael Nadal, says claycourt giant Thomas Muster
The southpaw won the French Open in 1995 that triggered his rise to the pinnacle of the world rankings the following year.
During his heyday in the 1990s, Austrian ace Thomas Muster was one opponent everybody feared to face on the claycourts. The southpaw won the French Open in 1995 that triggered his rise to the pinnacle of the world rankings the following year.
But his supremacy as a dirtballer can be truly understood from the fact that of the 44 career titles that he won, 40 came on clay. On the most gritty surface, he lost just five finals. There is no wonder that he was most deserving of the epithet, ‘King of Clay’.
However, a decade on, all his achievements seemed trivial when a new star called Rafael Nadal emerged on the horizon.
It would not be unfair to say that Muster’s success pales in comparison to Nadal’s staggering accomplishments that include nine French Open crowns, the numero uno ranking, the Olympic singles gold apart from winning all the other three Slams as well.
The 49-time claycourt titlist Nadal’s feat of winning the Monte Carlo Masters and Barcelona nine times each and Rome Masters seven times are unparalleled.
In a recent interview with SuperTennis TV, the Austrian humbly refused to be called the ‘King of Clay’ anymore and admitted that it is ‘beautiful’ to be even compared to Rafa.
“Don’t call me king of clay, I won many clay-courts tournaments but there is only one king and that is Rafael Nadal”, Muster said. “It’s beautiful to be compared to him, but he won Roland Garros so many times, Rome and other events.”
That said, Nadal has been on the decline for the past couple of years. The 14-time Grand Slam winner has not been able to lay his hands on a Major trophy since 2014 and has not looked his former invincible self for quite some time.
Injuries too haven’t helped his cause. This year, the 30-year-old lost a major chunk of the season due to a wrist injury that forced him to miss Wimbledon and also to wrap up his season early.
However, it is also to be noted that even in that truncated season, a healthy Rafa did leave his mark by winning the Monte Carlo Masters and Barcelona each for a record ninth time.
Refuses to write Rafa off
Muster pointed that out while opining that the Spaniard can still be a force to reckon with. 2016 also saw a sizzling rivalry between Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray with the latter usurping the Serb from the top spot. And the Austrian expects more of that rivalry in the coming year.
However, he is not certain how good a comeback the 35-year-old Roger Federer, who called off his 2016 season for rehabilitation from knee surgery, will make.
“We don’t have to forget of him who could play very good in some events. As for the rest of players, there could be again the rivalry between Djokovic and Murray and there could be some younger players as well. As for Roger [Federer], we can’t know in which condition he will come back.”