Tarango stages a walk-out

Wimbledon '95: American storms off court after row with umpire n Becker through n Easy for Graf
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THE temperature dropped in a strictly meteorological sense at Wimbledon yesterday, but as far as player behaviour was concerned the heat reached unprecedented levels when Jeff Tarango of the United States walked out of a third-round match and then accused the umpire of corruption.

Nothing in the illustrious history of Wimbledon tantrums could begin to match the events that unfolded on court 13 during Tarango's meeting with Alexander Mronz, of Germany, and then spilled over into an extraordinary press conference when the 26-year-old Californian alleged that the umpire, Bruno Rebeuh of France, was in the habit of "helping" players he was friends with. Tarango's wife Benedicte, standing alongside him in the interview room, then added to the air of mounting incredulity by admitting that she had tried to slap Rebeuh as he left the court.

Tarango's name was hardly known at Wimbledon until last Wednesday when as one half of the men's pair facing Tim Henman and Jeremy Bates he was caught up in the shot-in-anger incident that saw the Britons disqualified. He did not endear himself to them by suggesting that, when Henman lashed out with a shot that hit a ball-girl, "he could have killed her".

Tarango is certainly one of tennis's mavericks - he once dropped his shorts during a match in Tokyo against Michael Chang - and has incurred more than his share of fines during a pro career which began in 1989 but now may not have much further to go. The tennis authorities are unlikely to take kindly to what Tarango had to say, although his allegations about Rebeuh, which go back to October 1993, were so far-reaching that an announcement of an inquiry followed within minutes from the referee's office.

The statement confirmed that during the second set of his match against Mronz, "Jeff Tarango was defaulted for walking off the court without permission". It concluded: "In- vestigation into Mr Tarango's post-match comments will take place in due course."

It is unlikely that anyone gathered on the outside court to watch one of the least glamorous of the third-round ties was aware of the background to the long-standing animosity Tarango felt towards Rebeuh. The first sign that something was wrong came on a game point when Tarango fired what he thought was an ace only for the umpire to call the ball out. A dispute ensued in which Tarango walked back to his chair on the assumption that he had won the game and continued an argument with the umpire.

That was nothing to what happened when Tarango, having lost the first set on a tie-break, prepared to serve at 15-40 and 1-2 down in the second and exchanged words with some spectators, telling them to "shut up". The umpire immediately issued a warning for an audible obscenity, at which point matters got out of control.

Tarango marched across to the umpire's chair complaining: "How come they can say what they want to me?" He then demanded that the umpire call a supervisor. "I have a big beef," he added and sat down in his chair. A bewildered Mronz stood and watched from the back of the court.

Discussions with the supervisor failed to satisfy Tarango, who explained afterwards that he wanted the umpire removed from his chair. With the officials refusing to budge, Tarango suddenly exploded with rage, saying to the supervisor: "You are the most corrupt official in tennis." The umpire then docked a penalty point from Tarango - the second stage of the disciplinary procedure - prompting the player to shout, "That's it", before he gathered up his kit and walked off court.

"Well, things were pretty crazy, and I have a lot of basis for what I'm saying," Tarango said when he got back to the interview room. "It's a long, long story. I'm sorry that things happened, but I don't feel that a player has any defence these days in getting some kind of justice when things go wrong against him." Tarango then made a series of allegations about Rebeuh, to the effect that the umpire was helping players he liked to win matches.

The incident overshadowed the rest of the day's action in which Tarango was not the only player to cross swords with authority, although Wayne Ferreira's run-ins with the umpire during his match with Mark Woodforde of Australia were on a somewhat smaller scale.

Ferreira was warned for racket abuse and sailed very close to the wind when he appeared to utter an audible obscenity but, after consultation between the umpire and a supervisor to whom the incident had been reported, got away with it. Ferreira's agitation was caused by his own erratic form - he lost the fourth-set tie-break after a 5-1 lead had put him within two points of the match - and a clever performance from Woodforde in which he drew on all his skills as a doubles specialist. But the South African eventually came through in five sets.

Jan Siemerink also caused Boris Becker problems, winning the first set 6-2 thanks mainly to a series of wonderfully anticipated returns which all but negated the German's serve. The Dutchman illuminated the match with his shot-making, but sustained pressure was beyond him and Becker recovered to win 2-6 6-2 6-2 6-4.

It is 10 years since Becker changed the face of modern tennis when his ferocious hitting made him the youngest Wimbledon men's singles champion at the age of 17 years and seven months. Then they all started to play like him. But Becker, the original exponent of the power game, looks as if he might again show his rivals how it is done.

In the fourth round, he will meet the 6ft 8in Belgian Dick Norman. A lucky loser from the qualifying competition, Norman was a contender for character of the tournament - until Jeff Tarango decided to take the lid off the bottle.

A brief history of tantrums

1981: John McEnroe's bad behaviour at Wimbledon comes to a head with his "pits of the world'' tirade against the umpire.

1990: McEnroe becomes the first player to be disqualified from a Grand Slam event - the Australian Open - after three offences.

1995: Carsten Arriens, a German player, disqualified at French Open for throwing his racket, which hit a line judge on the ankle

1995: Tim Henman, of Great Britain, disqualified at Wimbledon for accidentally hitting ball at a ball girl.

1995: Jeff Tarango, an American, defaults at Wimbledon, walking off court following a dispute with an umpire.

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