Tennis Prose



Match Study: Muster vs. Haider Maurer in Vienna

The packed house is thrilled to see Thomas Muster play his first ATP match in over a decade. They are cheering and roaring each time the former Roland Garros champion strikes a ball in the warmup.

Andreas Haider Maurer is from Insbruck but judging by the way the crowd is welcoming him, like an anonymity, he may as well be from Istanbul.

Muster looks like an iron man, wearing black adidas shorts, a white shirt and white shoes with one black wrist band. The Moo Man is wielding a Babolat Pure Drive, just like Nadal. Gone is the familiar Lotto attire.

The match starts. Muster nets the first serve. He then misses a forehand on a Haider Maurer approach. Muster grunts on the next serve but nets a backhand. Muster wins his first point when his serve is returned long and the crowd gives him a positive reaction. Maurer misses a backhand and it’s 30-all. But Muster double faults then nets a forehand on the first ball. He disgustedly tosses his pocket ball away.

Maurer serving, Muster nets a backhand in the bottom of net. Maurer connects on two forehand winners and a Muster backhand miss makes it 2-0 for the 23-year-old who is ranked #157 and playing only his third ATP event of the year. He lost here a year ago 64 64 as a wildcard to Feliciano Lopez.

Muster holds serve with a nice strike down the T at 30-all.

Maurer is holding serve easily. “Too easy,” says the commentator, “Muster is getting a real workout.”

Soon it’s 5-1. Muster’s serves and gets it back to 5-2 but Maurer holds easily again, the set is over, 6-2.

During the break, Van Halen’s “Jump” plays in the arena. “I get up…and nothing gets me down…I’ve seen the toughest go down…You got to ro-oh-oh-oll with the punches…might as well Jump!”

Muster serving but falls into a 0-30 hole. But he digs out as Maurer bounces his racquet after a simple backhand miss at 30-all.

The match evolves to 2-2 and Muster falls into another hole, this time 0-40. But he digs out again, lets out a roar. He is fired up now, rushing back to his chair. 3-2 Muster. Muster runs out on court, “raring to go” and the crowd is pumped. Muster practices some shadow forehand swings.

The match continues with service holds to 4-3 for Muster. Muster is bouncing on his feet, eager to return. The legend smiles after a backhand miss. It’s a key point. He is in this match. He is moving well, making some shots but struggling to threaten the Maurer serve. Another easy hold for Maurer and it’s 4-4.

Muster looks perplexed as he struts around the baseline, he puts his index finger on his nose, then decides to change his wristband. Muster will need to raise his game and he does. One of the best points of the match follows. Muster hits two overheads, a dropper than a lob winner and he is fired up like Nadal, hopping and fist-punching, like a 20-year-old ATP rookie. Beautiful point for Muster and it’s 30-love. Maurer hits the line, 15-30. A long rally provokes a Muster backhand miss long. 30-all. Key point. Muster misses a short backhand slice into the net. First break point for Maurer here…but service winner for Muster who watches the return sail long.

Maurer nets a forehand. Muster glares at Maurer before the serve. Muster chases a drop shot but Maurer nets the pass. Muster is ecstatic. He defiantly throws away the ball in his pocket as he heads back to his chair. Muster leads 5-4 here. The Vienna audience has got what they wanted – a very competitive and interesting match.

The twenty-years younger Maurer is a cool customer though as he again holds serve easily, with three aces.

Muster does a deep knee bend and bounces his serve ball. This is it for him. He has to hold. Long rally until a running desperation lob by Maurer sails long, as Muster points for it to go out. An ace from Muster, 30-love. A classic forehand volley angled drop winner is vintage Muster of 1996. Muster serves an ace to win the game and hustles to his chair as if this were the final of Masters Series event in the 90’s against someone like Sampras or Corretja.

Though he is playing a lucky loser from the qualifying tournament (replaced Gulbis in the main draw), Muster is looking like he is right where he belongs, back on the ATP Tour.

Maurer hits an ace and a drop shot winner which the tricked Muster can only look at, he doesn’t take one step for it – 30-love. Another easy hold for Maurer.

They go to a tiebreak.

Maurer chases a drop shot, then lob, and connects on an amazing two-hand backhand winner down the line. He raises his arm and index finger, which quietly but forcefully declares he is the #1 player on this court today. Muster is left scratching his head. Shotspot shows a Maurer forehand winner was just wide. A Maurer second serve footfault and suddenly it’s 2-1 Muster. Muster serves but hits a forehand wide. 2-2. Muster forces a backhand pass from Maurer which goes long. 3-2 Moo Man.

Muster nets a high bouncing second serve then cries in despair and bites his finger. 3-3. Maurer ace. 4-3 Maurer. Muster ace down the center line, 4-4. Muster badly mishits into the rafters the backhand return from Maurer which luckily bounces off the sideline. 5-4 Maurer. Forehand winner by Maurer. “Fantastic display by this young man,” says TV commentator. 6-4, Match point…a long forehand to forehand rally ends with a forehand winner on the line by Muster who is desperate to survive and prolong the battle. 5-6 Muster serves…and misses a forehand down the line. Maurer is relieved as he holds both fists to his face and lets out a massive yell. Muster runs to the net for the handshake which is surprisingly quick considering the quality of the battle. Muster accepts a well-deserved standing ovation. He raises both hands high, if you didn’t know, Muster looks like the winner of this match.

Muster does the on-court interview second after the winner, which Maurer respectfully stays to listen to, sitting in his chair. Muster then signs autographs for young and old alike. He picks up his Babolat bag and exits, he waves goodbye one more time.

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