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Muster and Tarango Tango in Paris

May 29, 1997

PARIS (AP) _ Jeff Tarango calls tennis a cross between chess and boxing. His approach seems to lean more to the boxing side.

When Tarango and Thomas Muster ended their match at the French Open on Wednesday, there was no customary handshake. It’s a small wonder they didn’t trade blows.

In one of the most fiery matches at a major tournament in recent years, the fifth-seeded Muster prevailed 7-5, 1-6, 6-2, 6-1 to reach the third round. It wasn’t easy.

Both men have a macho attitude, both men use gamesmanship and both men have volatile tempers. It didn’t take long for them to flare up, and Tarango started it. By early in the second set, it was close to getting out of control.

Tarango mimicked, mocked and taunted Thomas Muster _ and even served underhanded at one stage. Muster drilled a point-blank overhead between Tarango’s legs on one point.

``I knew he was going to try to hit me with that overhead. I didn’t flinch at all. I was ready for it,″ said Tarango, who jumped as the ball whizzed through his legs.

The Austrian refused to shake Tarango’s hand at the end of the match, turning his back and brushing him away as the chair umpire stepped between the players.

``Please don’t shake hands with me now,″ Muster said without looking at Tarango.

``That’s the first time I’ve ever done this,″ said Muster, the 1995 French Open winner who is seeded fifth this year. ``I’ve never played anyone like this.″

Tarango didn’t see anything wrong with his behavior.

``Probably his ego was just a little bit bruised,″ Tarango said. ``He has such a big ego that if you take a little of his limelight, he just doesn’t like it.

``Tennis is tough, a cross between chess and boxing, in my opinion. I don’t think you can give anybody an edge.

``Thomas didn’t want to give me an edge today. I didn’t want to give him an edge. That’s the way it goes. I think he was fighting hard, and I was fighting as hard as I could today,″ the American said.

Muster saw it differently.

``There is no excuse″ for Tarango’s behavior, he said.

``I know that I am not always great, when I’m on the court I’m fighting. I’m giving everything there,″ Muster said. ``I’m looking at balls and ball marks. But that’s all within the rules.″

``I don’t think what we saw today is a very professional way.

``We know the history of Jeff. He is not an easy guy.″

Two years ago at Wimbledon, Tarango caused an uproar when he walked off the court during a match after arguing with the umpire. Tarango’s French wife later slapped the umpire, Frenchman Bruno Rebeuh.

Wednesday’s umpire Mike Morrissey wasn’t threatened, but he had to come down from his chair 15 times to check disputed calls. Muster called for supervisor Bill Gilmour, who remained courtside for the remainder of the match.

Tarango mimicked Muster’s swaggering gait and grunting _ something Tarango said bothered him enormously.

``It’s just like an echo in my head, his grunting. It’s just too much,″ Tarango said. ``It’s crazy how much he is grunting. He’s grunting when he is hitting the ball, he’s grunting when I am tossing the ball in the air.

``He is doing his little gamesmanship out there. It’s a mind game as well as a physical game. I guess he wants all the rules to go in his favor.″

But Tarango conceded that there was a simpler reason for his antics.

``I didn’t think I could beat him physically. He apparently trains a lot harder than I do.″

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