Tarango's eccentricity comes to a head

John Roberts profiles the journeyman who made a name for himself on Saturday by walking off Wimbledon's Court 13
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He may have lost six consecutive first-round matches on his previous visits to Wimbledon, but Jeff Tarango is guaranteed fame even if he never picks up another racket.

His striking French wife, Benedicte, has also become part of the lore of the world's greatest tennis championships. They mark their first wedding anniversary tomorrow, suddenly the most talked about couple in sport.

The 26-year-old Tarango's deeds and words at the All England Club have startlingly confirmed the eccentricity of a journeyman player whose journeying may be severely curtailed.

His name first jarred on the tournament at the conclusion of the doubles match in which Britain's Tim Henman became the first player to be disqualified at Wimbledon. Tarango, one half of the pair who gained from Henman's expulsion, said Henman could have killed the ball-girl who was accidently struck in the head when he hit a ball in anger.

Tarango risked punishment himself by arriving late for his second-round singles match against Andrei Medvedev. Tarango defeated the No 15 seed in four sets, his play and patter flustering the Ukrainian so much that he double-faulted 20 times as well as serving the same number of aces.

This was merely the prelude to Tarango's disqualification on Saturday after walking off Court 13 following a row with the French umpire, Bruno Rebeuh.

Tarango, in common with John McEnroe, studied at Stanford and played tennis for the university. He comes from Manhattan Beach, California, and also has a home in Pezenas, France.

He lists his interests as philosophy, creative writing, bridge and fishing and describes himself as "a very rational person, an intellectual person who does not fly off the cuff without reason". Like many professional players, he has consulted Jim Loehr, a leading American sports psychologist.

Once, during a tournament at Indian Wells, California, Tarango barracked the British umpire, Gerry Armstrong, from the stands.

When playing in Portugal, Tarango was so upset that an umpire would not change a line call against him that he borrowed a camera from a spectator and took a photograph of the mark the ball had made on the clay.

During a televised match against Michael Chang in Tokyo, Tarango dropped his shorts after losing his serve at the beginning of the third set. "I just lost my head, and my shorts came down," he said. "I even got Michael to smile, which is very tough to do."

Benedicte Tarango, 30, upstaged her husband in Saturday's French farce by smacking umpire Rebeuh and then materialising in the interview room and holding court like Joan Collins in Dynasty.

Rebeuh, who is in his early thirties, lives near Cannes and is one of the sport's most respected umpires. He made his debut on the professional tour at a tournament in Itaparica, Brazil, in 1987, which was marked by Andre Agassi's first title on the circuit. Unlike the Tarangos, Rebeuh will be back in action at Wimbledon today.

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