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Tarango aims for new image

January 16, 1997

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) _ Jeff Tarango is tired of being known only as the wild and crazy guy who was thrown out of Wimbledon two years ago.

After a decade on the tour, the California left-hander intends to let his tennis do the talking in 1997.

Tarango, 28, gained international notoriety in 1995 when he was thrown out of Wimbledon after he stormed off court during a third-round match, called umpire Bruno Rebeuh corrupt and biased and thanked his wife, Benedicte, for slapping the umpire twice in the face.

The International Tennis Federation fined him $28,256 and barred him from last year’s Wimbledon.

But Tarango is now looking toward the future.

``This is my year. This is what it’s all about,″ Tarango said Thursday after beating Marc Rosset 6-4, 6-1, 6-1 at the Australian Open.

``This is the year to prove where nothing is really going to distract me, bother me, tangle with me. I’m just going to fight my little butt off.

``I have achieved something for the wrong reason and I hope I can change all that. That’s why I’m really setting this year as a challenge for myself.″

Tarango is currently ranked No. 93. The winner of two ATP Tour singles titles, he reached No. 42 in 1992. He has not progressed beyond the third round in 29 Grand Slam tournaments.

``I think I’ve always been a really talented player, but I’ve never quite jumped to that next level,″ Tarango said.

``I’ve always kind of sat in my room and wondered what’s going on, why the hell am I not doing as well as these other guys that I beat when I was younger. I went to school for three years and maybe fell behind in the tennis world a little bit.

``I don’t think I have seen my potential. I don’t want to put too much on myself, say big things and be someone I’m not, but I would really just like to go for it.″

Tarango is looking forward to returning to Wimbledon.

``It’s going to be very interesting. I don’t hold any animosity. I think Wimbledon is the greatest tournament on earth,″ Tarango said.

``I’m really gearing up for that tournament. We’re going to go in there, give it a hell of a run, and hopefully there’s going to be some Fourth of July fireworks.″

The American said he spent last year’s Wimbledon at his home in Pezenas, France, dining on ``wine and cheese instead of strawberries and cream.″

He added he’d heard the Dalai Lama had moved to the region. ``He’s trying to get close to me,″ quipped Tarango.

He was then quizzed on what he could learn from the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet.

``I heard he can levitate, so I’m not really sure,″ he said. ``I think I have a hell of a lot to learn from him.″

Tarango was also asked if he had learned to watch what he said.

``I’m not ever going to bite my tongue. I’m just going to rephrase it,″ he responded.

He said he did not know how long it would take for the public’s perception of him to change.

``You know, it’s strange,″ Tarango said. ``When I’m on court, I’m intense, fired up, I’m going to massacre anyone that’s on the other side of the net.

``It’s a kind of metamorphosis that goes on. My dad has never really been able to explain it. I tell him it’s his fault for being a boxer and getting hit in the head too much.″

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