- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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Not that Muster is Phil Donahue or anything. In a 1989 Cup match, he demonstrated his coachability by instructing the Austrian captain: "I want you to do three things. Bring me water. Bring me towels. Keep quiet."
On Friday, after a slow start, Thomas easily passed muster by defeating Chang 4-6, 6-2, 6-2, 6-4 while wearing a lime-green headband that looked like something out of Baskin-Agassi's 31 flavors. "I think Michael is more used to a crowd being for him because he looks so skinny and tiny and poor," said Muster, who got ample support from the crowd tucked into a corner of Austria's largest soccer stadium.
The Wiener (i.e., Vienna's) Praterstadion was the proper setting for a meeting between Agassi and Skoff, two of the bigger hot dogs in the game. They matched each other through a thrilling first set, which ended in a tiebreaker, but Skoff ran out of shots, not to mention legs, and lost 7-6, 6-0, 6-1. "The guy makes you run like a dog," said Skoff in tribute. "Out-of-mind tennis. I've never been put under such pressure, never, ever."
Skoff was asked if he would "talk" to his close personal friend, Muster, about what to do against Agassi. "Yeah, I tell him what to do," Skoff snapped. "Hit winners. Lots of them. All the time."
Agassi, as always, was a revelation. No, it wasn't the fact that he had changed earrings—from the Like a Virgin dangler to a diamond stud. Or that he was favoring a beard again, plus a chartreuse girdle ensemble. (He's much cuter in the pink he wears in those ads.) Or even that he looked more than ever like Charles Man-son in drag. What was truly amazing was that Agassi, runner-up at both the French and U.S. opens this year, had shown his hirsute face in Vienna at all. He had rejected team captain Tom Gorman's invitation to play the quarterfinal tie against Czechoslovakia last March because he didn't cotton to Gorman's more-team, less-entourage rules. Then he insulted Gorman, calling him a "glory hound" and a "chameleon."
Surprise. Gorman had to swallow his pride and invite Agassi to play against Austria because USTA president David Markin ordered him to do just that. So, there was Agassi last week with all his 'ils: Phil (the brother), Gil (Reyes, the trainer-bodyguard) and the Thrill (Nick at Nite Bollettieri, his coach). Bill (Shelton, the agent) was nowhere to be found, although sightings from the tourist line at Sigmund Freud's house were incomplete at press time.
Gorman acknowledged that the team was not distracted by the plethora of "guests" (Gorman's word) looking after Agassi and that Agassi had attended all team functions. "It's the practicality of the thing, not the philosophy, that Andre was worried about," said Gorman.
"The team environment is tough for me," Agassi said. "Eating dinner with Michael Chang, Rick Leach and Jim Pugh [the latter two are the U.S. doubles team] is not going to make me play better. I have my little idiosyncrasies that let me do that."
Leach and Pugh were obviously so thrilled that they had been spared pillorying by their teammate that they went out and beat Muster and Antonitsch on Saturday 7-6, 3-6, 6-0, 7-5 in a rain-interrupted match that had the partisan sights and sounds—fans with painted faces doing the wave and chanting "Zu-ga-be! Zu-ga-be!" ("More! More!")—of a World Cup soccer match.
"It was the worst headache I've ever had," said Leach, whose quickness and marvelous hands made him the outstanding player on the court. "I was sweating bullets out there."