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SAMPRAS AND AGASSI BALK AT MUSTER’S TOP TENNIS RANKING

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The mysterious ATP computer is spitting out numbers that say Thomas Muster is the best tennis player in the world. To the man he knocked from the No. 1 spot, that just shows the absurdity of the current ratings system.

"It certainly reflects the fact that you can dominate on one surface and play enough tennis to mislead a lot of people," Andre Agassi said after beating Pete Sampras in an exhibition Saturday night at the Omni.Muster, the Austrian clay-court specialist, will become No. 1 when the new ATP ratings are released Feb. 12. Agassi will drop to third, while Sampras moves into the No. 2 slot.

Muster won 12 tournaments last year, including the French Open, but all but one of his victories were on clay.

"I feel like he loses to Becker every time on any surface besides clay," Agassi said. "He loses to Pete every time on any surface besides clay. He loses to Courier on every other surface besides clay, and maybe even on clay.

"It doesn't undermine the fact that he had to work his butt off for a year to get there on the rankings sheet. But it doesn't change the fact that I don't put him in the top 10 when it comes to surfaces outside of clay."

Agassi, who lost in the semifinals of the Australian Open, will give up the No. 1 ranking because of a quirk in the schedule. An obscure, year-old tournament in San Jose, Calif., is being played a week later this year, costing Agassi 204 points.

Got that? Most people don't.

"It's so confusing," said Sampras, who was No. 1 before his third-round upset in Australia at the hands of 19-year-old Mark Philippoussis. "I don't think too many people in here understand the ranking system, how it works. It took me a couple of years to figure it out."

Sampras, who won Wimbledon and the U.S. Open last year, isn't too enamored with Muster's ability, either.

"He's by far the best clay-court player we have," Sampras said. "As far as being the best player in the world on other surfaces, I can't accept that as much as his ability on clay. He reminds me a little bit of Guillermo Vilas ... a grinder who played a lot of clay, managed to dominate that one surface and that's why he was ranked so high."

Both Sampras and Agassi want to eliminate the current system which bases the rankings on a player's best 14 tournaments over the previous year. Also, every player would be required to enter a certain number of tournaments on each type of surface: hardcourt, clay and grass.

Muster, for instance, skipped Wimbledon last year because he didn't want to play on grass.

"To me, the rankings system is like giving a professional golfer mulligans," Agassi said. "They could hit a bad shot and say, `You know what, let's just not count that one. But we will count it if you hit a better one."'

Sampras added, "Every time you step on the court, it should count. With the best-of-14 system, that's not the case. You can play 25 or 26 events, lose in the first round of a number of them and still have a pretty high ranking. That's not good for the game."