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Feat of Clay: Muster’s No. 1

February 13, 1996

MONTE CARLO, Monaco (AP) _ The king of clay is now No. 1 in tennis.

Thomas Muster on Monday displaced Andre Agassi as the top-ranked player in men’s tennis, and neither Agassi nor Pete Sampras is much impressed over the way the ATP Tour computer goes about selecting its rankings.

``It certainly reflects the fact that you can dominate on one surface and play enough tennis to mislead a lot of people,″ Agassi said after beating Sampras in an exhibition last week in Atlanta.

Sampras, who won Wimbledon and the U.S. Open last year, is now the No. 2 player, with Agassi dropping to No. 3.

``(Muster’s) by far the best clay-court player we have,″ Sampras said. ``As far as being the best player in the world on other surfaces, I can’t accept that as much as his ability on clay.

``He reminds me a little bit of Guillermo Vilas _ a grinder who played a lot of clay, managed to dominate that one surface and that’s why he was ranked so high.″

Muster won 12 tournaments last year, 11 on clay, including the French Open. The 29-year-old Austrian took exception to the criticism, saying he was the oldest player since John Newcombe to ascend to No. 1.

``I’ve won one Grand Slam out of 12 tournaments,″ he said. ``I’ve won the biggest indoors event. I think I’ve proved that I am the No. 1. If it’s one hour or one week or one year, it’s a big achievement.″

Muster spoke Monday from South Africa, where he won a singles match on grass against Wayne Ferreira, although Austria lost the series 3-2. Muster also won his other Davis Cup singles match on grass, against Marcos Ondruska.

Muster has 4,474 computer points to move ahead of Sampras, who has 4,465. Agassi had taken over as No. 1 from Sampras at the Australian Open.

Muster is the 13th player to be in first place since the rankings began in 1973. However, his No. 1 standing may not last long.

The top ranking will be up for grabs again this week when Muster plays in Dubai while Agassi and Sampras play in San Jose, Calif.

The San Jose tournament is being played a week later this year because first-round Davis Cup matches were played last week.

As a result, Agassi lost the 204 computer points he picked up for winning in San Jose last year. Muster had no points to defend.

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