Tennis: Tarango's sit-down protest against umpire

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The Independent Online
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.

"In the back of my mind, there's a little extra tension. I have to watch my step. At the same time, I made the wrong step to get into that position. There is a little bit [of pressure]. But I deal pretty well with pressure situations."

But Tarango was raging again in the third set after a 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." Instead, Black told how Tarango's words made him more determined to win.

"You expect it with Jeff, because he's pretty emotional," he said. "The call was very close. But he shouldn't be asking me what I thought on calls. I really wanted to beat him after that. It was the worst thing he could have done. I was really pumped."

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, comparing his first singles match since Wimbledon with pushing a stone uphill only for it to roll back down again. Black was not impressed. "I really didn't care," he said. "Everyone else was hyping it up. I thought I was playing a star. I thought I was playing on Centre Court. Instead, it was just Jeff Tarango."

Monica Seles is expected to be given a co-No1 ranking with Steffi Graf when she returns to the WTA Tour. According to the New York Times, the Women's Tennis Association is about to make an announcement to that effect, stipulating that Seles would share the ranking for at least six tournaments.

Seles is due to take her first steps back into the sport since she was stabbed more than two years ago by playing an exhibition match against Martina Navratilova, in Atlantic City on Saturday week.

Although Seles has entered next month's United States Open, she has yet to announce whether she will compete in one of the two prior Tour events, in Los Angeles and Toronto. She was the world No1, but some players have questioned whether she should receive special consideration when returning after such a lengthy absence.

Graf has withdrawn from the Toshiba Classic in Carlsbad, California, on 29 July, because of continuing back trouble.