John Harris, tournament codirector of the upcoming D.C. National Bank Tennis Classic, expressed concern recently that the world's top tennis professionals may be detracting from the sport by refusing to play on a variety of court surfaces.
Harris said they are playing in fewer tournaments each year and that many of the top professionals don't want to be told what to do.
The Classic, which begins Monday at the Rock Creek Park Tennis Stadium, has attracted many of the world's best clay-court players, such as Ivan Lendl, Jose-Luis Clerc and Andres Gomez, but not such fast-surface players as Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe, the two top ranked in the world.
"Players don't want to play on different surfaces anymore," said Harris. "Many of the players want laissez-faire--do what you want to do and don't tell us what to do. I'd like to see players compete in two or three grass-court tournaments, three or four clay, three or four hard courts and three or four indoor surfaces. That way, you'd get to really see who the best players in the world are.
"But the top four or five players in the world over the last few years just don't want to be told what to do. That's pretty much the (Bjorn) Borg situation. And other guys don't want to play on surfaces they don't master."
Lendl, third ranked in the world, skipped Wimbledon, largely because he doesn't do well on fast surfaces. Eliot Teltscher, the No. 6 player in the world, skipped Wimbledon. Both are capable of winning a clay-court tournament like the D.C. Classic.
Said Harris: "The players are protecting their (ATP computer) rankings, I suppose. One good thing is that you're getting the best player for that surface. Wimbledon had the best grass-court players in the world, even though guys like Lendl, Clerc and Teltscher weren't there. And we'll have the best clay-court players. Jimmy Connors, at nearly 30 years old, is vulnerable on clay now."
Harris said yesterday that Dick Stockton, one of the few players who still plays on a variety of surfaces, has been given one of the four wild-card spots.
Despite the change in sponsorship of the tournament--the Washington Star was the old sponsor--Harris said that ticket sales for the eight-day tournament are "going pretty good even though they could be better." All the boxes have been sold.
The qualifying round begins Saturday.