Ray Moore, the top-ranked South African tennis player who withdrew Tuesday from his country's Davis Cup team, has long been on record as opposing apartheid, but says the strategy of isolating South Africa in order to force changes in her racial policies is ill-conceived.

"I think the situation is very complex, and my own personal viewpoint is that the West is mismanaging it," Moore said in an interview this week.

"I think there are ways and means to pressure the South African government into making changes. I don't think the way it's being done is the way to do it."

Moore announced Tuesday that he would not play in the North American Zone finals between the United States and South Africa in Nashville, March 17-19. Civil rights groups are planning massive demonstrations at the matches to protest South African racism and repressions.

"In the past, I have been of the position that I can play on the South African Davis Cup team at the same time as criticizing the partheid policy, which I don't like," Moore told The Washington Post. "I thought that in this way I could make some sort of contribution towards the enactment of complete integration in South Africa.

"I thought about withdrawing as early as 1969," added Moore, 31, who first played Davis Cup in 1967. "But I thought if I was not on the team I would not have a platform."

He would not comment specifically yesterday on what made him change that long-held position.

"There are excellent reasons which, unfortunately, I can't divulge," Moore said by phone from Memphis. "I don't want to make it sound, clandestine or anything like that, because it's not. It's a basic change in attitudes -- mine and other people's -- and in events.

It's simply that if I say the thinsk that I believe and the things that have lately changed my mind, then I'm going to get involved in a big political thing, which I don't want to do."

Moore said in the earlier interview that he does not doubt the sincerity or good intentions of anti-South protestors in the U.S., but believes many of them misunderstand his country.

"I think you have to treat Italian people very different from German people. They have different characteristics. I think the very last thing you say to an Afrikaans person, and they'-re the ones in power in South Africa now, is how to run their country. If you dictate to them what to do, you have very little chance of them doing it," Moore said.

"If you sit down at a table and negotiate with them, point out to them the folly of their ways, then you have a chance. But I think if you say, 'Listen, South Africa, we want one man-one vote tomorrow, you have no chance of accomplishing it.

"There are two schools of thought. One is to burn all bridges and isolate South Africa. The other says to keep the bridges there, open discussion, but at every point of the way keep pressuring the South African government into making changes. Keep telling them you wan't stand for certain things.

"I'm from the latter school. Maybe I'm not as radical as other people, but I just think there are ways to change the system in South Africa. Changes have been made . . .

"No matter how radical one is, if you know the situation there, it is not possible to have one man-one vote overnight, because the people in South Africa are not ready for that and there are a lot of questions to be answered.

"The white people are not parttime inhabitants. They've been there for 300 years and they're as much a part of Africa as the black people are. They are a white African tribe, so to speak, and so they certainly have a role to play in the development of South Africa . . .

"I would like to see the South African government sit down with the black leaders in South Africa and talk to them, listen to what they have to say, and enact some sort of program that will eventually lead to majority rule . . . like they've done in Rhodesia.

Eighteen months ago, I heard (Rhodesian prime Minister) Ian Smith say, 'Majority rule? Never in a thousand years.' Now 18 months later, he's sitting down at a table and they're negotiating. I think that's good, and I think South Africa should do the same."

Moore said he thinks progress is being made toward abolishing the legal separation of races against which he has spoken out publicly since 1969.

"It's getting better now, for a lot of reasons. there are a lot of people in South Africa who are working to see changes made. We have started a lot of things.

"Just last Friday, our minister of sport, Dr. (Piet) Koornhoff, lessened some of the hard laws of segregation. I think he's opening up all kinds of things now, to make it easier for black people to play sport and to play across color lines," Moore said.

Sunday afternoon, after losing in the final of the Ocean City (Md.) International tournament to Hungarian Balazs Taroczy, Moore made a brief, impassioned speech at the presentation ceremonies, noting that sportsmen from countries whose governments represent vastly different ideologies manage to play each other without "political games."

"We are happy to compete against each other and enjoy doing so. I wish the United Nations people would take a lead from that," he said.

Apparently, these sentiments were at the heart of his decision to withdraw from the Nashville matches, which he said yesterday "are no longer a sporting event."

"I resent the interference of politics in the Davis Cup. In particular, I don't want to play a part in a situation that turns a sporting event into a political demonstration," Moore said. "I look forward to a time when i can represent my country again, free from the political harassment of the so-called 'concerned nations' and, indeed, free from apartheid."

"Ray doesn't want to get involved in politics. Not everybody's a crusader. But he's made his public stand and gone on record against apartheird," Arthur Ashe, the only black world-class player and a close friend of Moore's, said yesterday. "What more do you want him to say?"