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TENNIS / JULIE CART

It's No Computer Glitch, Muster Is No. 1

February 12, 1996|JULIE CART

All the quirks of the ATP computer will be exposed this week, when Thomas Muster becomes the 13th player to become No. 1 since the rankings began in 1990. A scheduling change that moved the San Jose tournament to a week later meant Andre Agassi lost the 204 points he needed to remain No. 1. So, for a week anyway, Muster will take over.

Pete Sampras will be No. 2, Agassi No. 3, Boris Becker No. 4 and Michael Chang No. 5.

Muster had a highly successful 12 months, winning 12 tournaments, all but one on clay. His aversion to other surfaces was underlined when he announced, after winning the French Open, that he once again would skip Wimbledon.

Now, his philosophy seems to have changed. Muster said he will play Wimbledon this year.

But that's not enough to satisfy some critics led, as usual, by Agassi.

"It certainly reflects the fact that you can dominate on one surface and play enough tennis to mislead a lot of people," he said.

Agassi said he would not rank Muster in the top 10 on any surface other than clay.

For his part, Sampras doesn't like the rankings, period. "It's so confusing," he said. "It took me a couple of years to figure it out."

*

The top end of the women's rankings is unchanged, thanks to the WTA's decision to award Monica Seles co-No. 1 status through her first six tournaments.

That protected status will come to an end after the State Farm Evert Cup next month, Seles' sixth tournament. But don't look for Seles' ranking to budge for the foreseeable future.

Even if Seles loses in the first round of the Evert Cup, she will still be co-No. 1 with Steffi Graf. In fact, even though her ranking will find its true level after the tournament, she will still have a shared ranking until she has either played in 14 tournaments or for 18 months. Should her ranking move at all, she'll share it with the person ranked below her. After this break-in period, there'll be no more co-ranking.

All of which underscores how silly all the arguments were when Seles was poised to come back. Players grumbled about special treatment, but those around Seles, who had seen her play, were quietly saying, "The whole thing won't matter because Monica will be No. 1 on her own." How right they were.

*

Graf, who is recovering from surgery to remove bone spurs from her foot, is scheduled to return to play at the Lipton Championships, the week after the Evert Cup.

Rumors from one of Graf's sponsors last week suggested that Graf would return sooner than scheduled, at the Evert Cup. Graf's agent said the rumor may not be too far off base.

"It's not on her schedule, but if Steffi is healthy and ready to play, and she wants a tournament before Lipton, it could happen," said Phil DePiccioto, speaking from Atlanta. "The facility is great. I won't rule it out."

The tournament's predictable response: "We'd love to have her."

*

Davis Cup captain Tom Gullikson has decided to name a squad of eight to 10 players early in the year and select from among them for matches throughout the year.

It's a move that the players have been asking for and applaud, as it removes the soap opera of selection and engenders more of a team spirit. It also allows players to set their schedules.

"Last year we kind of picked a team for each specific tie, and we didn't name an overall squad for the year, which kind of ties everybody together a little bit more," Gullikson said. "They get a feeling of more of a team-type situation."

Having solved one problem, still remaining out of Gullikson's control this year are the Olympic Games, which jam up the summer schedule.

"Every year, scheduling is a big issue," Gullikson said. "This year, with the Olympics crowding the schedule, it's one more major event that the players point to and take their attention away from the Davis Cup.

"It really boils down to priorities. At the U.S. Open [in last August] the players made their schedules for this year. They all know where the Davis Cup weeks fall. It's very apparent in the schedule. It's just a matter of them making Davis Cup a priority and, you know, sometimes it is and sometimes it isn't."

Tennis Notes

The U.S. Open has increased it's prize money by 10%, awarding a total of $10.8 million. It will be the only Grand Slam event to offer equal prize money for men and women. The winners will each receive $600,000. . . . Jim Courier has been named chairman of the ATP Tour Charities. . . . John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors will play in the Champions Tour over-35 event at Riviera Country Club April 23-28.

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