Like football scouting, the search for roommates, our national defense and your digital wristwatch, professional tennis has come under the influence of the computer.
Every two weeks, after being fed pertinent data and a program approved by the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), an electronic data processing system in Dallas belches and spits up a print-out of the top several hundreds players in the world, based on the results of tournaments played within the last 12 months that had at least $25,000 in prize money and a minimum of 16 players in the draw.
The $100,000 Volvo Classic, which begins today at George Washington University's cozy Smith Center, includes four of the top eight men on the most recent ATP computer list: No. 2 Bjorn Borg, No. 4 Raul Ramirez, No. 7 Brian Gottfried, and No. 8 Roscoe Tanner.
Since the computer ratings determine seeding as well as who gets directly into a tournament and who has to qualify, Borg, Ramirez, Gottfried and Tanner are seeded 1-2-3-4 in the 32-man event, part of the year-long Colgate Grand Prix series.
Seeded behind them in the weeklong chase for a $20,000 first prize are Stan Smith, Bob Lutz, Cliff Richey and Brian Fairlie.
Ramirez, the 23-year-old Mexican Davis Cup ace and defending Grand Prix champion, is the only one of the top four scheduled to play today. He is in the next-to-last match of a nine-match program against Haroon Rahim, 27, a flashy but erratic hard-hitter from Pakistan and UCLA.
Two years ago, when Washington's indoor men's tournament was called the Xerox Classic and was part of the World Championship Tennis circuit that now competes with the Grand Prix from January through May, Rahim upset Harold Solomon and reached the semifinals.
Solomon, from Silver Spring, won here last year but is not defending his title. He is playing in a WCT tournament at St. Louis instead.
The Washington tournament gets under way at 11 a.m. with a match pairing two survivors of the three-day qualifying event that concluded yesterday at Smith Center and the Regency Racquet Club in McLean: George Hardie vs. Nick Saviano, who lost but was drawn as a "lucky loser" to fill a vacancy in the tournament draw.
A celebrity event involving two senators, two congressmen, one ambassador, one cabinet official, one Pentagon higher-up, two ABC-TV newsmen, a Volvo executive and a couple of members of the print media was also played yesterday at Smith Center.
The final of the celebrity event, pitting Sen. Lowell Weicker (R-Conn.) and Sen. JOhn Heizn (R-Pa.) against Swedish Ambassador to the U.S. Wilhelm Wachtmeister and Volvo executive Sten Svensson, is scheduled tonight, between the TOm Gorman-Gene Mayer and Ramirez-Rahim matches.
Borg, who is due to arrive here Tuesday from a Grand Prix tournament in South Africa, will play his first-round match against young Californian Hank Pfister Wednesday night.
Gottfried and Tanner, who were on the U.S. team that defeated Australia in the World Cup at Hartford over the weekend, are scheduled to play Tuesday.
Gottfried, winner of two recent Grand prix tournaments that have expanded his confidence, faces Australian Davis Cupper Ross Case, who just missed being seeded. (He is No. 33 on the computer, while Fairlie is No. 32.) Australian Open champ Tanner opposes Brazilian lefthander Tomaz Koch.
There are several other potentially interesting matches scheduled today:
Mark Edmondson, the 1976 Autralian Open champion, is so intense a competitor that he gave the finger to the hallowed sod of Wimbledon's Court No. 1 when he got a bad bounce there last summer. He plays 30-year-old Ray Ruffels, an affable Aussie lefthander whose career was nearly ended in 1973 by a heel injury that did not respond to conventional treatment but disappeared after he visited the same Filipino faith healer credited with curing Tony Roche's chronically ailing left elbow.
Zeljko Franulovic, a 29-year-old Yugoslav who was one of the best clay-court players in the world before his right shoulder gave out in 1971, has gradually regained his touch. He plays quick, lanky, iconoclastic Jeff Brorowiak, the 1970 U.S. Intercollegiate champ from UCLA whose strong serve-and-volley game should provide a nice contrast to Franulovic's elegant ground strokes.
Richey, the ever-tenacious Texan who ws ranked No. 1 in the U.S. in 1970, vs. burly qualifier Steve Docherty, who has one of the hardest serves in captivity, and occasionally out.