He was barely taller than the tennis racket he was lugging. His bristly brown hair was pulled back with a bright yellow headband. His denim shorts were baggy. One of his red and white socks was sagging.

Five-year-old Greg Butler was waiting for the start of the free tennis clinic held yesterday in conjunction with the Washington Star tennis tournament at the 16th and Kennedy Street NW courts. In the meantime, he was asking for autographs from anybody who happened to be standing around.

His friends was wearing one of the tee-shirt given away at the clinic. It draped over his shoulders and hung down to his knees.

Finally, it was time for the clinic and the boys slipped into the crowd of some 1,000 children waiting for tennis tips.

Many were disappointed that some stars scheduled to appear didn't show. That list included Harold Solomon, Roscoe Tanner and Brian Gottfried. But those players who did appear had the rapt attention of the crowd.

All eyes were on the doubles teams of John Lucas and Sherwood Stewart, and Larry Gottfried and Terry Moore as they played three games to open the session. Lucas' antics drew loud cheers. Greg had to stand up to see what was happening.

At one point, the children were lined up at the four corners of the court and given a chance to return volleys from the pros. Greg raced to get into line, but was edged out by bigger players.

The only one who succeeded in returning a serve was 15-year-old Rodney Harmon of Richmond. "It was easy," Harmond said, rolling his eyes. "You just stick your racket out and meet the ball in front of you. I've picked up a few things watching."

Then Arthur Ashe arrived. He traded a few volleys with some of the youngsters and played a few games.

But by this time many of the children had moved out of the sun and were drifting away. A dozen pairs of tennis shoes were raffled off, and Ashe and Lucas were besieged for autographs Greg started piling all his stuff into a big grocery bag.

"You can learn by just watching them [the pros]," said Sharon Relly, 10, from Alexandria. "I think it's better than last year."

"It's fun," said Karen Ruff, 14. "It's a change from just hitting that ball in the hot sun."

Allan Lindsay, 12, admitted he was "kinda nervous. But I found out that I have to throw tha ball a little bit higher in my serve."

Doris M. Harrison, clinic director, explained the purpose of the clinic: "We're using tennis as a vehicle to break down barriers, develop peer-group relations and broaden their horizens. We have children here from the ghetto, the suburbs and the richest country clubs. And they're all brought together by their interest and love in tennis."

"It's like our little U.N.," said Calvin Rolark, president of the United Black Fund, one of the clinic's sponsors.

The children were filing out of the grandstand now. All were clutching their free tee-shirts, wrist bands and hats.

Struggling down from the top of the bleachers with his big bag of belongings, Greg was shaking his head. "Did you learn anything?" he was asked.

"Nope," he answered.