Johan Kriek and Steve Denton, finalists the past two years in the Australian Open--still classed as a Grand Slam event despite the recent dearth of top-rankers--are about to meet again in an opening- round match of the $400,000 Volvo Masters for the 12 top point producers on the 1982 Grand Prix circuit.

The event gets started in New York's Madison Square Garden tonight with Jose-Luis Clerc vs. Mats Wilander and Andres Gomez vs. Jose Higueras. On Wednesday, it's Vitas Gerulaitis vs. Yannick Noah, then Kriek vs. Denton.

Under the new format, one-loss-and-out among a 12-man field with four byes replacing the old double-elimination system in the Masters, the Kriek-Denton victor wins a Friday match against top-seeded Jimmy Connors (the other byes went to Guillermo Vilas, Ivan Lendl and John McEnroe).

Says Kriek, "I've won the Australian Open the last two years and nobody knows about it. It's just in the small type in the newspaper."

But Kriek continues, "If you lose here, it's big news everywhere" . . .

Mike Davies has moved up to executive director of the Association of Tennis Professionals (the major men players' group). Davies, who came over to ATP as marketing director after serving as World Championship Tennis' executive director, 1969-81, succeeds Butch Buchholz--who will "remain active in several ATP projects, including the establishment of a two-week Grand Slam level tournament" . . .

Martina Navratilova, two for two this year with tour titles here and in Houston, will skip the next three stops to rest, keep tabs on her Dallas Cowboys (she may fly in for the NFC final in RFK) and fill her first speaking engagement. She is to address 800 Bell System salesmen today in Hershey, Pa. "I'm supposed to talk about teamwork," she told inquirers. "Got any ideas?"