Does Marcelo R�os feel an obligation to be rotten? That question was raised at last spring's French Open before his match with home-country favorite Arnaud Boetsch. "You'll be playing on center court," R�os was told. "Will it bother you to have 15,000 French people cheering against you?"
"No, I am looking forward to it," said R�os. "I am at my best when it is just me against the world."
If that's so, then the 22-year-old R�os, from Chile, is often at his best. And worst. The winner of last week's Champions Cup in Indian Wells, Calif., ranks third on the men's tour in points and first in prickliness. Cold, haughty and vigorously hostile, he bullies anyone who gets in his way, lobbing insults at umpires, openly mocking lesser opponents and snubbing greater ones. "Many players despise R�os," says a veteran pro. "After five years on the tour, he's still extremely aloof, still has no social graces, still acts as if no one exists but him. It's not just his snottiness that bothers players—it's his general lack of respect for them."
Exhibit A in The People v. Marcelo R�os is a blank sheet of paper. Kids seeking his signature are apt to be flipped the bird or showered with descriptions more appropriate to a proctologist's office. During R�os's opening match in Indian Wells, he was tormented by Rachel Cormell, a 16-year-old tennis fan. Cormell squealed loudly on every point won by Hendrik Dreekmann, a player known the length and breadth of Bielefeld, Germany. "I'm not rooting for Dreekmann," Rachel said. "I'm rooting against R�os." A year ago, after a practice session, Cormell asked R�os for his autograph and was blown off. "He was nasty and rude," she said. "Now it's payback time."
Exhibit B is a tennis ball liberally encrusted with Roland Garros clay. R�os's first opponent in last year's French Open was Wayne Black, ranked No. 249 in the world at the time. Trailing 0-2,0-40, Black dived for a drop shot and weakly pushed a return over the net. He had conceded the point and was walking away when the ball buzzed by his ear. Instead of tapping Black's shot away, R�os had tried to brain him. "Marcelo is a finely calibrated Swiss watch missing a couple of wheels," says Ion Tiriac, the former doubles partner of Ilie Nastase, from whom R�os may have learned some of his Nasty tricks. "One of those missing wheels is in his head."
Exhibit C is a buffet table laden with comestibles. Tired of waiting in the clubhouse lunch line at Wimbledon last year, our man reportedly told Monica Seles, "Move your fat butt!"
Exhibit D is a soggy pair of underwear. A year ago R�os left a tournament in Scotts-dale, Ariz., without remembering to pick up his laundry. Tour manager Weller Evans took the bundle to the next stop, in Indian Wells. According to an eyewitness in the clubhouse, R�os walked up to Evans and demanded, "Where's my laundry?"
"It's in my room, Marcelo," Weller replied. "I'll bring it over later."
"No, I need it now!"
"Marcelo, I'm not' going to get it for you until you show some common courtesy," said Evans, who suggested that R�os start by saying "please" and "thank you."