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Muster's first priority is a return to the top

Thomas Muster has taken a lot of heat lately. First, folks bashed him for his brief No. 1 ranking because he basically has amassed his rankings points playing almost only on clay.

Then he skipped the Olympics this month, which didn't endear him to his countrymen in Austria.

But Muster says he is determined to show people he's a true champion and the best player in the world. "I'm fighting back to the top position, no matter what," he said. "For me, being No.

2 is an extra motivation (because) I have something to look forward to _ (being) No.

1.

"I always proved people wrong for the last 13 years. Nobody expected me (to be) where I am. I fought to get there. If I keep on playing well, I will maybe regain the top (ranking) in the fall."

Pete Sampras, are you listening?

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK: Life is funny. Monica Seles was out of tennis for more than two years after the 1993 stabbing and she played awesomely in her initial comeback, winning the 1995 Canadian Open and reaching the '95 U.S. Open final.

Then, she's off the tour for just a few months early this year with a nagging shoulder problem and she has come back looking quite mortal, losing early at the French Open and Wimbledon and now the Olympics.

Were the Canadian Open and the U.S. Open just a fluke, or evidence of what a healthy Seles can do?

GUESS THEY TOLD THEM: Is it me or are tennis fans getting a little more rowdy?

Who would have thought riot police would have to be called to a match at the Olympics, as they were Sunday when fans protested the switching of the Andre Agassi-MaliVai Washington match from Center Court to Court 1? You figure something like that might happen over at the boxing venue, but not at the tennis site.

You have to hand it to the fans, though. Their heated protest forced Olympic officials to bow to their wishes and keep the Agassi-Washington doubles match on Center Court.

Who said tennis was a sissy sport?

THANKS, CHAMP: Is Seles amazing or what? Here she is a world-famous millionaire tennis pro and she decides to stand in line like a regular person to get Muhammad Ali's autograph at the Olympics.

Do you think Martina Navratilova would have done that? Not a chance.

LOOKING AHEAD: The WTA TOUR's 1997 schedule will be released Aug. 5 at the du Maurier Open in Montreal. As has been the case for the past several years, no Tampa Bay dates are expected to be on the calendar.

By the way, the du Maurier Open will unveil a stadium that is part of a new sports complex in Montreal. The facility will have eight indoor courts and 11 outdoor courts, including a 10,500-seat stadium court.

THEN AND NOW: Once upon a time, Andrei Medvedev was one of the fastest-rising names on the pro tour. That was 1994, when he bounded to No.

4 in the world.

Now he's just another player on the tour, a man with loads of talent but ranked 39th.

"It's a challenge for me to get back into the top 10," he said. "Now I have to struggle to get there, whereas I did not have to when I first got there. I am looking forward to the fight."

HURTIN' PUP: You have to feel bad for Chanda Rubin. She was having a breakthough season at the start of the year, reaching the Lipton Championships final and climbing to a career-high No.

6 in the world rankings.

But because of lingering tendinitis in her right wrist, she has played little since. She had to pull out of the French Open, Wimbledon and the Olympics, which was one of her dreams.

There's no word when she'll be able to return to the tour or if she'll be ready for the U.S. Open, which begins late next month.

_ Information from other news organizations was used in this report; Darrell Fry can be reached through his e-mail address at frysptimes.com.

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