Tony Trabert's already difficult position as caption of the United States Davis Cup team could be made more precarious by a rift with Washington attorney Donald Dell, the U.S. captain in 1968-69 who represents many leading American players.
Asked if he thought certain influential people would like to see him replaced - as was rumored last weekend in Nashville, Trabert said, "I'm sure that's true, and I have a good feeling who some of those sources are."
Was Dell one of Trabert's behind-the-scenes adversaries?
Among Dell's clients who might be in line for the captaincy, are Dennis Ralston, whom Trabert replaced in 1975, Marty Riessen, Arther Ashe and Stan Smith.
"He's ome of the sources. He has an "Any of his clients that do anything ax to grind, obviously," Trabert said. that makes money he's going to get a percentage of it. He has a personal interest in trying to promote the peoble he represents. That's obvious and it's natural."
Trabert claims that Dell "is mad at me" because the dates of last weekend's American Zone North Section final at Vanderblit University conflicted with the $125,000 Volvo Classic in Washington, managed by yprofessiiional Services, Inc., of which Dell is president. The tournament director was Ray Benton, a partner in Dell's law firm.
"He (Dell) made some e accusations about Joe Carrico (U.S. Davis Cup Committee chairman) and about me selecting these dates to conflict with his tournament, which is absolutely false. It's a ridiculous accusations. I re-sponded directland doesn't like it," Trabert said.
"When I picked the team, he accused me of picking (Harold) Solomon and (Fred) McNair because they're from the Washington area, which is hogwash. It makes no sense at all. I picked the people we could get who wantedde to play and who I thought could do a good job."
Solomon, McNair, and Sherwood Stewartt are (McNair's doulbles partner) are Dell clients. They had entered the Washington tournament,, as had Vitas Gerulaitis, but withdrew after being selected by Trabert the last week in January.
"It just happened that Davis Cup was the same week as his tournament. . .all the other times he could be magnaminous about offering to help get his players to play Davis Cup. . .but this affected him directly, so then he takes it as a personal thing, which it wasn't," Trabert said.
"Ididn't select the dates, and I fielded the best team I cuold. I didn't insist on Brian Gottfried because he was the defending champion in Washington. I tried to get (Jimmy) Connors to play; if I could have gotten Connors and Gerulaitis, for example, I wouldn't have asked Solly Solomon.
Dell was out of town and unavailable for comment yesterday, but Benton said,"Idon't think that (Trabert's charge) is true at all.
"We both had long conversations with Tony. We know he doesn't do the scheduling, but we were trying to put pressure on him to have the dates changed."
Trabert said Dell's accusations were made in letters to Carrico, with copies to him and other U.S. Tennis Association officials. "I just responded to clear the air and be on record, to refute his accusations," he said.
According to Trabert, Dell charged "that last year we selected a date to play South Africa that ruined two tournaments which is not true, and he said I have never talked to him about the Davis Cup situation."
Trabert continued, "I saw him three times in New York during the Masters (the first week in January), and in each case he wasn't available to talk.
"I did say to him that when you're involved in as many facets of tennis as he is - as a lawyer, an agent, running tournaments, doing TV contracts, doing commentary - it's hard to do anything in the game without touching him somewhere.
"He's got to recognize that, if a decision doesn't always work in his favor, it's not because anybody's out to get him or anything like that."
Trabert said he called W. Harcourt Woods, a member of the Davis Cup Committee of Management, and asked why last weekend's dates were selected instead of this weekend.
"He said, WCT was trying to get all the players who won their tournaments last year, plus all the majors, to play the WCT Tournament of Champions (this week in Las Vegas). They put up $400,000, a $60,000 first prize, and we didn't think it was fair to ask a player to miss a shot at that kind of prize money to play Davis Cup.'"
USTA President W.R. (Slew) Hester, who appoints the captain, said yesterday that Trabert would remain for the rest of the 1978 campaign "unless Joe (Carrico) wants to change him for some reason, but I really don't anticipate that."
Trabert was originally appointed by former USTA president Stan Malless. "I think Tony is a very nice guy. I have no real qualms about his ability as Davis Cup captain," said Hester.
"On the other hand, it would be great to have a guy like Stan Smith or Arthur Ashe, somebody who's closer to the age of the players, as captain. But how do you pay them? They make $100,000 a year, so how could we pay them? Davis Cup is not very profitable."
Trabert, 46, played Davis Cup for the U.S. in 1951-55. He is in his third year as captain. The U.S. has not won the Davis Cup, oldest and most prestigious team competition in tennis since 1972, and has not won the American Zone since 1973, losing to COlumbia in 1974, Mexico in 1975 and 1976 and Argentina last year.