Tennis: Tarango stages sit-down protest

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Jeff Tarango has been involved in another incident on the court, less than three weeks after being fined pounds 10,000 for walking out of a match at Wimbledon. The 26-year-old Californian returned to his chair and remained there for 45 seconds following a dispute with an umpire during an ATP Tour event, the Legg Mason Classic in Washington.

The sit-in occurred during the second set of Tarango's first singles match since Wimbledon, against Byron Black, of Zimbabwe, who went on to win, 6-3, 5-7, 6-3. First, Tarango was warned for a time violation while in his service motion. He restarted, hit an ace, and shouted: "Time that!" He then yelled at the umpire, Norm Chryst, when the official overruled a game-winning ace and called a let serve.

After continuing to complain to the umpire, Tarango halted play by taking his seat. On returning to the baseline after the delay, he held serve and broke his opponent to force a third set.

"It was kind of a Wimbledon flashback," Tarango said. At the All England Club, he was fined the heftiest sum ever imposed for on-court offences at the Championships after walking out on his third-round match against Alexander Mronz, of Germany.

Investigations are continuing into Tarango's accusations against the French umpire, Bruno Rebeuh, whom he called "the most corrupt official in the game". This may lead to a further charge by the Grand Slam authorities of "aggravated behaviour", which could result in suspension from one or more of the four major championships for up to three years and an additional fine of up to pounds 65,000.

Tarango, referring to his Wimbledon disqualification as "an isolated incident", said he never considered a walk-out in Washington. "Knowing Norm is a stand-up guy kept me from losing control. He's really a good guy, an army man. He says right up front if he didn't see it. I thought it was too bad. If it had been called in, it would have been a big break. There was some controversy out there. I stayed tough."

But Tarango was raging again in the third set after a shot at break point which would have brought him level at 3-3 was called out. At that point, Tarango tried to involve his opponent. "Byron, you're a man of honour," he said to Black. "At the press conference, please tell them how far in that was." Black held for 4-2, and, after each player had held serve, Tarango made four unforced errors to be broken in the concluding game.

A plainclothes security officer was seated behind Tarango's chair as a capacity crowd watched the match on the Grandstand Court in sweltering conditions.

"I felt like Sisyphus," Tarango said. Black was unimpressed. "I really didn't care," he said. "I thought I was playing a star. I thought I was playing on Centre Court. Instead, it was just Jeff Tarango."