It may sound strange to say that Ricardo Ycaza, 22, is trying to make a comeback. But the young Ecuadorian, like so many tennis players these days, was sensational as a teen-ager before quietly slipping into obscruity after turning professional.

Ycaza made a big turn on that comeback trail yesterday afternoon by advancing to the main draw of the $175,000 Washington Star International tennis championships with a qualifying win over Denver's John Benson, 7-6, 6-2.

The temperature on the Rock Creek Stadium court reached 123 degrees at 2 p.m., causing Toronto's Greg Halder to withdraw from his match with Jose-Luis Damiani because of heat exhaustion.

Ycaza is one of eight players who made their way through 48-player qualifying round his weekend, gaining today's 64-player main round.

Three years ago, Ycaza seemed destined to become a top-50 player who would have no trouble being invited to the main draw of most tournaments. His credentials coming out of the junior ranks were impressive: 1975 Wimbledon junion finalist; 1976 U.S. Open junion champion and Equador junior Davis Cup player.

Ycaza owned John McEnroe as a junion, beating him four times in four matches.

"I was 18 and John was 17 then," he remembered. "I had confidence in myself then. I thought of myself as a winner when I was a junior. But there, you only have maybe three or four top players. When you get to the men's rank, everybody's exceptionally talented.

"I played McEnroe in Indianapolis last year and he beat the heck out of me (6-2, 6-1)."

McEnroe, the Wimbledon runner-up two weeks ago, is the No. 2 player in the world today. Ycaza is ranked No. 247 by the Association of Tennis Professionals computer.

"My mind just hasn't been together since just after I turned professional," said Ycaza, who early in his career defeated Arthur Ashe, Wotjek Fibak and Raul ramirez. "I'm a moody player now. I just don't concentrate hard or give 100 percent all the time now like I did when I was a junior.

"I get tired of all the traveling and playing every day, especially these qualifying rounds when you have to get up at 7 a.m. to see if you made the draw, then play at 11 a.m. and again in the afternoon. Once your ranking drops and you get caught in the qualifying circle it's hard to get out. The pressure is tremendous."

At times yesterday he appeared polished enough to compete with many of the tourament's maindraw players. During one stretch in the first-set tie breaker he hit three topspin back-hand winners off Benson's first serves.

After two reflex drop-volleys and an overhead smash, Caza held a 6-2 lead in the tie-breaker, but lost his concentration before winning, 10-8.

"I played looser in the second set," he said."It was too hot to play long points so I started hitting out at the ball, just banging away trying to hit winners."

As a result, he is $500 richer and has a chance to continue his comeback in the main round today against Bruce manson.

Others who will advance to today's main draw are: Rick Meyer, Roberto Vizcaino, Mike Grant, Marcell Freeman, Gabriel Urpi, Damiani and Bruce Foxworth. CAPTION: Picture, Rick Meyer won qualifying match and will enter the main draw the $175,000 Washington Star International tennis tournament. By Larry Morris -- The Washington Post