Everyone should know the amazing, inspirational story of Thomas “Miracle Man” Muster. His story is one of depths of defeat to the heights of victory because of an amazing attitude that he was not going to be beaten by chance. Muster was one of the world’s best tennis players in the mid-1980’s. His meteoric rise to the heights of the game appeared to have ended when he was the victim of a tragic freak accident, but rather than letting an awful chance accident overwhelm him, he valiantly fought back into the game he loved. When it would have been easy to quit and give up, Muster was a shining example of what it sometimes takes to recover from a serious setback.
Muster reached the French open in 1985, and turned professional in 1986. In 1988 after winning four tour finals, he was ranked in the world’s top 20 players, and one year later in 1989, was ranked in the top ten in the world, the first Austrian to reach that level. He won a match in the U.S. that set him up to compete with Ivan Lendl, then the number 1 player in the world. Shortly after winning his semifinal match to move to the finals against Lendl, Muster went to take something out of the trunk of his car. As he was doing so, the car was struck head-on by a drunk driver. Muster was taken immediately to the hospital where it was found that the accident severed ligaments in Muster’s left knee forcing him to cede the final match to Lendl.
Muster returned to Austria for surgery. Afterwards, he developed a special chair that allowed him to practice hitting balls during his recovery. He returned to competitive tennis within six months. Muster then came back to win three titles on clay courts, and in 1993, he played in nine tournament finals winning seven of them, and in 1995 won 12 tournament finals in 14 attempts. That year, he won 40 consecutive clay court matches.
He became known as the “king of clay” as he continued to excel on clay even though he had less success on other surfaces. In 1996, his record on clay was 46-3, and combined with 1995 his record of 111-5 was the best record ever assembled on clay courts since records were kept beginning in 1968. In 1996, he was ranked the number 1 player in the world. He continued to play at the top of the game until he retired from the professional tour in 1999. He was the only number 1 player to have never won Wimbledon.
His story remains one of the great inspirational sports stories of all time. His indomitable spirit and attitude to fight back from a monumental setback are true lessons for anyone facing challenging circumstances. Miracle man Thomas Muster proved it was all about attitude.