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Tarango Keeps Cool in Defeating Rosset

January 17, 1997|From Associated Press

MELBOURNE, Australia — Sometimes surly, other times silly, Jeff Tarango brought a little sizzle to the Australian Open.

Whether screaming at an umpire, staring down a linesman, psyching out an opponent, or wisecracking like a comic, Tarango at least wasn't dull. He never is, actually. His problem has always been proving that he can play tennis the way he's capable of playing, match after match.

He showed Thursday how good he can be, thrashing Marc Rosset, 6-4, 6-1, 6-1, to gain a berth in the third round against longtime buddy, Jim Courier.

If Tarango's bravado counts for anything, that could change and make people remember him for more than his tirade at Wimbledon two years ago, when he stalked off the court and accused umpire Bruno Rebeuh of being corrupt by favoring friends like Rosset. That episode, in which Tarango also defended his wife for slapping Rebeuh twice in the face, cost Tarango dearly and kept him away from Wimbledon last summer.

"This is the year of Mr. Tarango," said Tarango, who vowed to play every Grand Slam tournament this year.

"I'm coming out and I'm here to prove myself. I'm 28, and this is my year. This is what it's all about for me in my life in tennis. I've been playing since I was 7 years old, and I've never had more to prove than I do this year. Nothing is going to distract me, bother me, tangle with me. I'm just going to fight my little butt off."

One thing he won't do, he said, is keep quiet.

"I'm not going to ever bite my tongue, I'm just going to rephrase it," he said.

He said he holds no animosity toward Wimbledon, nor does he believe Wimbledon officials hold any toward him.

Tarango gained notoriety and nothing else--no endorsements, no appearance money, no special exhibitions--from his Wimbledon walkout.

"I have achieved something for the wrong reason, and I hope I can change all that this year," he said. "That's why I'm really setting this year as a challenge for myself. I want to go for it. I think I've always been a really talented player, but I've never quite jumped to that next level.

"It's weird. 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."'

Tarango suggested that his three years at Stanford might have held back his progress as a professional, a thought shared by fellow Stanford alum Patrick McEnroe.

"This year, I've just kind of taken the attitude that the sky's the limit," Tarango said. "I don't think I've ever really seen my potential, and nobody else has, either."

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