IT ALL STARTED ON COURT 13

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The Independent Online
Jeff Tarango's "big beef" with Wimbledon started in the second set when a serve he thought had been perfectly executed was called a fault. The American, one set down to Germany's Alexander Mronz and trailing 1- 2 and 15-30, was incredulous. "It was an ace," he bellowed. "I've seen it on television a million times. It was an ace."

The umpire, Bruno Rebeuh, declared a let after the line judge had corrected his own call. An agitated Tarango played the point, but when the rally ended with his shot into the tramlines, the crowd jeered. Tarango, now 15-40 down, responded with "shut up", which brought him more catcalls and a warning for an audible obscenity from Rebeuh. The player strode up to the chair complaining that the spectators could say what they liked to him, but he was being penalised. "I've got a big beef," he declared, calling for a supervisor, one of Wimbledon's trouble-shooters, to be summoned. The official, Stefan Fransson, appeared, but failed to pacify Tarango, who wanted Rebeuh substituted by another umpire.

At this point, Tarango yelled: "You are the most corrupt official in tennis." The comment was apparently directed at Rebeuh, who immediately resorted to the second of the three disciplinary stages and deducted a penalty point for verbal abuse. Tarango thus lost the game. With the crowd growing increasingly hostile and a bemused Mronz watching, Tarango was one step away from disqualification. But it never got that far. The American flung the two service balls he was holding on to the grass and yelled: "No way. That's it".

Tarango then marching off court, to reappear within half an hour for a press conference at which he delivered a list of allegations, the main thrust being that Rebeuh was guilty of favouritism. He named one leading player, whom he said the umpire had helped from the chair, and suggested that his complaints had been known in official circles before Wimbledon.

On his actions on court, Tarango said: "For people to say 'Jeff's a hothead' is not correct. I'm an intellectual person who does not fly off the cuff without reason."

His wife, Benedicte, had infiltrated the conference, and when her husband was asked if he could confirm that she had struck Rebeuh, a seething Benedicte launched into a passionate defence of her spouse. "Yes, I slapped him. This guy deserved a lesson," she said. "I do it to defend the players and tell him, Rebeuh, it is enough. If Jeff had done it he would have been put out of tennis." Asked what he thought of his wife's behaviour, Tarango said: "She's French."

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