MUMBAI: More than 19 years from firing 29 aces past Pete Sampras en route to delivering one of Wimbledon’s biggest upsets, Dutchman Richard Krajicek showed there is still plenty of sting left in his serve as Austrian Thomas Muster discovered at the MSLTA courts here on Tuesday.
It didn’t matter that the stage on this occasion was far friendlier – the Champions Tennis League is, after all, effectively an exhibition tournament – Krajicek was in the mood to give the locals a reminder of the champion he once was. And, for a man just over a week from turning 44, the Mumbai Tennis Masters captain succeeded for most parts of his encounter against Muster, his Raipur Rangers counterpart. Just as he had done twenty four hours earlier in Mumbai’s opening tie against Punjab Marshalls, Krajicek again gave the home side the perfect start with a 5-3 win over his older rival.
Back in the day, the two had clashed on the ATP Tour four times and shared two wins apiece. Again, this was an entirely different environment. You’d also expect the years to take its toll on factors like reflexes, speed etc. But what soon became apparent to the gathering was the competitive streak in both the former Grand Slam champions had very much survived the test of time. Muster, 48, a gritty baseline battler who roared to glory at Roland Garros in 1995, gave it all he had. But it wasn’t enough against the 1996 Wimbledon champion who rolled back the years in one particular game when he belted four consecutive aces to earn himself a well-deserved roar from the crowd.
How Krajicek must have wished he could have also featured in Mumbai’s remaining contests on the evening. His side weren’t able to win any of them. The just retired 2015 US Open women’s champion Flavia Pennetta failed to ride on the energy of the cheering fans as she was tamed 2-5 by Frenchwoman Alize Cornet.
Muster would later attribute Cornet’s win as the turning point of the entire tie which Raipur eventually won by racking up 23 games to Mumbai’s 14. “It was a great team performance, even if I wasn’t happy with my own performance,” said the Raipur skipper later. ” Alize played a great match as Flavia really came at her. She turned it around for us,” he added.
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