"A man he seems of cheerful yesterdays, and confident tomorrow."

Of all the young Americans who have largely taken over the top floor of tennis the last couple of years - Jimmy Connors, Roseoe Tanner, Harold Solomon, Eddie Dibbs, Dick Stockton, et al - Brian Gottfried is the most unassuming.

He is a man of cheerful yesterdays, a quiet, even-tempered, likeable Floridian who won the National Junior Championship in 1970. In all, he captured 14 U.S. Junior titles, 10 of them in doubles, but only now is he making a substantial impact on the pro tour. His todays and tomorrows are bursting with confidence.

Gottifried, 25, will be seeking his third Grand Prix tournament victory of the year this afternoon in the final of the $100,000 Volvo Classic at George Washington University's Smith Center.

Six months ago, he was an occasional winner, a "good, solid quarter finalist." Now he has become a player that no one can intimidate.

When the pressure of a match is most savage, he seems to expand, shift into overdrive, and come up with a cluster of big shots.

At the pro level, where all players have talent and the major factors that distinguish winners are in the mind, that is a sure sign of championship potential.

Gottfried is playing these days on a wellspring of confidence. That is a cliche in tenins, but Gottfried considers it the best summary of a psychological transformation he has undergone.

Formerly, he can now say with candor, he entered matches against the top handful of player expecting to play well and lose. Now, deep in that psyohe that no one else can know, he expects to win.

"If I start slowly, I think I'm going to get back in the match somehow," he says. "That's what the top players are thinking. They never think they're going to lose a match. That's how I've tried to get myself thinking.

"Inside, if I'm losing, I feel calmer. I feel that I'm not going to go right down the drain, that I have time to change the strategy and try something else. I'm going to keep trying things until one of them works or the other guy just plays too well."

"Maybe the best way to explain it is that I know I have time out there. I'm going to play the whole match and not panic and start rushing. If you're confident, there's no reason to get desperate."

Specifically, how does confidence manifest itself?

In Gottfried's case, he is no longer hesitant to use any shot in his repertoire. He has classical strokes, polished by countless hours on the practice court, but when the pressure of a match was most intense, he had a mental barrier against using the shots he considered riskiest.

He has, for example, an excellent lob - topspin or underspin, off either side. He can catch an opponent crowding the net because he disguises the lob well, flicking it at the last moment off the same motion he uses to stroke his passing shos. But for a long time he was reluctant to use it. No confidence. CAPTION: Picture, Brian Goufried lunges to return a shot during match yesterday with Raul Ramirez in the $100,000 Volvo Classic. By James A. Parcell - The Washington Post