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Fan booted for yelling at Graf at Wimbledon

A German spectator shouting abusively at Steffi Graf was ejected from Wimbledon on Tuesday and banned from the tournament.

Midway through her 6-0, 6-0 blitzing of 230th-ranked Kirrily Sharpe, Graf, the top seed, asked that an unruly spectator in the front row be told to stop taunting her during play.

Though Graf tried to downplay the incident and refused to disclose what the man yelled, witnesses reported that he was saying, "You're to blame," a reference to the attack on Monica Seles in a tournament in Hamburg, Germany, on April 30. Seles was stabbed by a man identified as a Graf fan.

Graf said she was harassed by the man during an exhibition at Roland Garros the day before the French Open began. The man was reported to have yelled at Graf, "You're responsible for everything that happened to Monica. We blame you."

The heckling incident became the focal point of the day because security has been increased here in reaction to Seles' injury. The man was escorted to club security headquarters and subsequently asked to leave the grounds. He was not arrested.

"When asked to leave, the man was happy to comply," said tournament referee Alan Mills, who did not release the man's name. "The championship security guards have been instructed to refuse this spectator access to the grounds for the duration of the championships."

The man refused to answer reporters' questions as police escorted him from the grounds.

Graf did not ask for the man to be removed, only that he remain quiet during play.

"I was surprised to see him here again," Graf said. "He was disturbing me. There's nothing I can do about it. I don't take it too seriously."

The same can't be said of the way she took Sharpe. Graf won nine of the first 10 points, needed only seven minutes to win the first three games and 38 to close out the match. She barely gave her injured foot a chance to start hurting. Graf had not played in two weeks because of a painful inflammation in her right foot.

"The foot feels fine," she said. "I think that showed in how I moved around the court."

Second-seeded Martina Navratilova breezed past Michelle Jaggard-Lai 6-2, 6-1 in the first round. But Navratilova didn't say much about winning; the Graf incident dominated her news conference.

"People like that ought to be kept from coming to the matches," she said of the heckler. "I just feel for Steffi. That's ridiculous. This is offensive behavior and people better wise up. Look at soccer. They have armed guards at the matches. And the riots in Chicago after the Bulls won. They said it was nice because only two people died. Can you believe that?"

The men's top seed, Pete Sampras, also had problems with fans. In the first set against 121st-ranked Neil Borwick, Sampras kept staring at a group of noisy older men before finally saying, "Stop doing that."

"They were rustling some plastic or something and it was making a lot of noise," he said.

Sampras might have been upset because he wasn't playing particularly well. He lost the first set 6-7 (10-12) but rebounded to win the next three 6-3, 7-6 (7-3), 6-3.

His slow start could be blamed on a right shoulder problem. He has practiced very little since suffering inflammation to a tendon a week ago. The pain was so bad he could not brush his teeth.

"For a while, I really doubted I could play here," he said. "But then I got some treatment and it started feeling better."