Mercedes Cup: Tennis Champions

INDIAN WELLS, UNITED STATES: Thomas Muster from Austria returns a backhand against Gustavo Kuerten from Brasil at the Champions Cup in Indian Wells, California, 08 March. Kuerten won 6-2, 6-4. (ELECTRONIC IMAGE) HECTOR MATA/hmb (Photo credit should read HECTOR MATA/AFP/Getty Images)

Over the 30-history of the Mercedes Cup only four players have lifted the title at Stuttgart more than once, and they have to be classified as the true champions of the event. They are Martin Jaite of Argentina, Austria’s Thomas Muster, Gustavo Kuerten from Brazil and the defending champion, Spain’s Rafael Nadal. We take a look at the last three men on the list of champions.

Mercedes Cup Tennis Champion: Thomas Muster

Thomas Muster is given the prime position as he is the only player to have won at TC Weissenhof in consecutive years. He claimed the title from Jan Apell of Sweden in 1995, and then again in 1996 when he outgunned Russia’s Yevgeny Kafelnikov in three easy sets.

He too was known as the ‘King of Clay’ when he was playing his best tennis in the mid-1990s, and still today, he is considered one of the finest clay court players ever to emerge on the circuit.

His Grand Slam record speaks volumes – he won at Roland Garros in 1995, reached the semi finals at the Australian Open Tennis Tournament on two occasions in 1989 and 1997, made it through to the quarter finals at the US Open Tennis Tournament in 1993, ’94 and ’96, but never made it beyond the first round at Wimbledon – grass was definitely not his forte!

The former world number one claimed 44 singles titles in his illustrious career, and 40 of them were contested on clay. He retired from professional tennis in 1999.

Mercedes Cup Tennis Champion: Gustavo Kuerten

Gustavo Kuerten is also a former world number one. He has won the French Open no fewer than three times downing Spaniards Sergi Bruguera and Alex Corretja and Sweden’s Magnus Norman to claim the most important clay court competition of the year.

He won 22 singles titles including the three Grand Slams, one Tennis Masters Cup and five ATP Masters Series. Of the 22 wins, 16 were on clay. He has claimed some auspicious scalps during his reign including Marat Safin, Andre Agassi, Patrick Rafter, Carlos Moya and Guillermo Canas, just to name a few! He took the Mercedes Cup in 1998 and 2001.

Mercedes Cup Tennis Champion: Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal, the current ‘King of Clay’ has already met Kuerten’s record of three French Open wins, and he is currently only 21 years old! He has claimed nine ATP Masters Series crowns, including three at Monte Carlo and three in Rome. Add to that 11 ATP Tour wins, and, wow, do we have a clay court specialist, or what?

His overall clay win/loss record is an amazing 133-13, and he is far from over. He won at Stuttgart in 2005 and 2007, and bets are that he takes his third Mercedes Cup in 2009, matching Muster’s back-to-back record.