Like the Shakespearean villain Iago, Ilie Nastase is once again cast as the heavy, suspended last week from Grand Prix tennis events for three months and fined $5,000 for breaches of the men's International Professional Tennis Council's code of behavior.

While I do not condone his on-court theatrics when they contravene the rules, I feel he is not soley to blame for his plight.

The one element that nearly always triggers Nastase's antics, as well as lesser reaction from other players, is officiating.

Officiating has for years been the major problem most progressive tennis players have not come to grips with. There have been numerous Internal struggles for control by the players: scheduling, television and the circuit in general. Officials, who they are and how they work have always been at the bottom of any priority list.

Whoever sat in the umpire's chair, called a service line or acted as referee for a tournament too often was a local volunteer, determining the fate of players battling for $12 million in prize money a year.

Even Weimbledon, the premier tennis event in the world, has its failings, the most blatant being the difference between the officiating at Center Court - 13 officials - and the outer courts, where on No. 14, there were seven officials, for instance.

Finally, the seeds of change have been planted by the tennis council, which has appropriated between $60,000 and $120,000 for the men's players' union to come up with plans for a staff of four "super referees" to oversee the approxmiately 100 Grand Prix events.

These referees, who will be hired by the end of the year, have jurisdiction over such an officiating, scheduling, rulings and final decisions. They will not umpire, but they will run events.

They will be well trained, well paid and travel the world on a sectional basis.

There are many nuances in a match you can not find in an official's manual, many of them calling for discretion and common sense by a referee, chair umpires or lines person. It was partly the inability - or cowardice - of amateur officials to firmly and fairly deal with Nastase that prompted him to continue his antics over the years.

More often than not, players will take advantage of any loophole in the rules, any weak umpire or vacillating lines person. There is also the matter of amateur officials making decisions and determining the fate of professional athletes.

Would the Washington Bullets and Seattle Supersonics have accepted amatuers to officiate their NBA final series?

The new professional referees will be expected to close the loopholes, make sure chair umpires are competent and weed out the inefficient among tennis umpires and lines persons.

The most embarrassing situation in pro tennis is a lines person watching the ball go by and not making a call because he or she did not see the shot. Imagine Lou Brock stealing second and the second base umpire refusing to make a call, saying he did not see the play. At least in baseball the umpire make the call.

In tennis, lines persons sometimes cover their eyes, a signal that the ball was "unsighted." Our credibility and integrity declines with each such admission.

Above all, the new referees will know the rules. The weakest link in a match is often the chair umpire, whose job is to contorl the match. Besides, keeping score and knowing the rules, the chair umpire must control the players, lines persons and ball boys.

Too often the umpire is made a fool of by the players, for a number of reasons, including getting the score incorrect, missing a call and falling into the trap of trying to be too easy on a top player breaking the rules.

If chair umpires are often weak and embarrassed, many lines persons are pathetic. They may call lines only once a year, and their presence is a tradition, not a craft.

Hopefully, the super refs will provide us with improved officiating, cut down on the number of errors, gain the respect of players and deal with Nastase-like behavior on the spot.