It was love at first interview. Nancy Trapani was a Washington tennis writer. A small man who pronounces his first name "atom" was a tennis pro wandering through Washington.

Perhaps he liked the way she took notes. Perhaps she liked his forehead smash. Whatever, the wedding will be this summer.

So that neatly explains what an American Canadian named Aram Ampagoumian is doing in Washington these days. But it does not explain the professional hunger that gnaws at him.

Ampagoumian would like to be ranked among the top 100 male tennis players in the world. To do that, he will have to beat some folks on the annual worldwide professional circuit.

To do that, he will have to amass multi-dollars for jets and expenses. And to dthat, Ampagoumian has taken an unusual route. He is advertising in the newspaper for a sponsor.

It's the old "kid needs a break" routine - except the kid himself is doing the urging. At the very least, you've got to love his brass.

There it has been for the last couple of weeks, right below the people who are responsible for their debts only, rights beside the guitarists desperate for drummers. "Young tennis professional . . . seeks sponsorship to play major pro circuit. Guaranteed business investment," Ampagoumian's ad immodestly declares. Then the name, then the phone.

But no, they have not come running. They have not even come trotting. A few have come limping.

One man who runs an association of tennis teachers called. But teaching is [WORD ILLEGIBEL] tennis pros do when they can no longer make it as players, or never did.

Some Washington-area pros have shown sympathy, but not cash. Some friends have sourced their address books, but all the listings under A for Angel and B for Benefactor seem to have been disconnected.

So all Aram Ampagoumian can do is practice and wait. "There's no chance it doesn't work, it'll work," he says. But then again, the circuit begins later this month, and Ampagoumian well knows that no tourname will be cancelled if he does not show up.

It's a matter of "only" $2,870, by Ampagoumian arithmetic. That sum would see him through the beds and burgers of the tour's first nine weeks Sarasota, Little Rock, Springfield, Denver, Memphis, Dayton. And here's what the sum would net an investor.

A player at the "prime" age of 23 who toured the minor league circuits in Italy and France last summer and finished in the top 15 (out of 64) in each country.

A player whom Mike Barnes, a pro at Bowie's Whitemarsh Tennis Center, calls "200 per cent better than he used to be."

And a player who could pay his sponsor with just four first-round victories.

That last is easier said than done, to put it mildly. Tennis tournaments aren't like life - you don't start small.

If you are Aram Nobody at a tennis tournament, you are likely to be matched against a Connors or a Vilas right away. It's bad for the spirit to be eaten alive. It's worse for the wallet.

Besides, just getting to the sacrificial first-round match means having to win three or four qualifying matches. If not, it's off to the airport and another bite at the apple of hope somewhere else.

So why should an investor back Aram Ampagoumian? Easy, he replies.

"Because I have already been playing for three years. I know what to do at what time in a match. Before, I knew I could make it but I still had fears. Now, my head is in the same place abilities are."

"The complexion of his game hasn't changed," said Mike Barnes, as he and Ampagoumian "had a hit" one recent afternoon at Whitemarsh. "Everything's just more solid than when I was him on the satellite tour in Florida in 1974.

"He's been doing it. He's where I'd like to be."

That's all the more remarkable when one considers that Ampagoumian did not even know how to play tennis until he was 17.

He was born in France and raised in Toronto, where basketball was his consuming interest. But his shortness limited his future in that game, and when an uncle suggested tennis, there was instant chemistry.

"Ever since then. I've wanted to make a living in tennis," Ampagoumian said, as he stood at the net and errolessly volleyed Barnes' backhands back at him. "My trouble was, I wanted it fasta, I thought I could make it in a year or so."

The tennis world does not lack people who believe the same thing. So the first year "was tough," Ampagoumian said. In other words, he flopped. But since then, experience has taken hold and success is beginning to trickle.

Aram Ampagomian is not unrealistic. He knows that failure lurks. If it ever loomed rather than lurked, he would then consider teaching.

But not before his ad has thumped onto a few thousands more doorsteps. "Someone will see it," he said. "I don't know too many people here. All it takes is one."