Wider issues raised by allegation of corruption

Both reputations and the integrity of the Tour are at stake, says John Roberts
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The Independent Online
Tennis has dealt with some bizarre cases down the years, but Jeff Tarango's behaviour at Wimbledon on Saturday - not to mention his wife's contribution - was classic. It would be hilarious were the disciplinary and legal implications not so serious.

Few people had even heard of the American player before he was disqualified for walking out of his match and then sprayed accusations and allegations all round the media interview room. The affair threatens to surpass the notorious exploits of John McEnroe and Ilie Nastase as a cause celebre.

The fines, to be announced by the All England Club today, represent the straightforward part of the procedure, dealing with the default itself and the two warnings which preceded it. Wider issues were created by the statements made by Tarango after the match, and these could lead to a suspension and possibly litigation.

At stake are the reputations of Bruno Rebeuh, one of the world's foremost umpires, and Marc Rosset, the Olympic men's singles gold medallist. Tarango's accusations also called into question the integrity of the ATP Tour, which runs the men's professional circuit.

The tennis authorities have at their disposal videotape of Tarango's lengthy interview. Listening to him on Saturday, as he spoke of intrigue and persecution, was a disturbing experience.

What happened during the match hardly seemed to warrant such a comic dramatic exit. It was possible to sympathise with Tarango to an extent when he was told to replay a point after an ace had been overruled and then corrected. But that was only one point. It also seemed harsh when he was warned for telling the crowd to "shut up". But when he called the umpire "the most corrupt official in the game", it became clear that the problem was deeper.

The referee, Alan Mills, made the point that if Tarango was uncomfortable with the umpire before the match then he ought to have requested a change of official. Now tennis is feeling rather uncomfortable.