Yannick Noah, winner of the French Open, apparently will not be able to play in this year's D.C. National Bank Tennis Classic because of his suspension by the Men's International Professional Tennis Council. "We told the tournament director he will not be there," a spokesman for the council said.
Noah, a semifinalist in the 1982 tournament, had designated it as one of the 12 tournaments he had planned to play this year, according to the Association of Tennis Professionals.
Philippe Chatrier, president of the International Tennis Federation, announced this week that Noah will be barred from competition for 42 days, from June 13 to July 25, because of his failure to appear for two matches in the Nations' Cup tournament in Duesseldorf, West Germany, last year.
Noah did not appeal the suspension and waived the 30-day period allotted for such an appeal. If the council were to rule retroactively that the suspension began Tuesday, the day he was informed of it, it would end on July 18, the first day of the tournament, raising a possibility that he would still be eligible to play in Washington.
John Harris, tournament director, said he had received a letter from the pro council stating that Noah was designated to play but had not received a final ATP entry list confirming it. "Certainly, he would be an attraction," said Harris, who has not completely ruled Noah out. "It would help. No question."
In addition to the action taken against Noah, the council also suspended Guillermo Vilas one year and fined him $20,000 for accepting appearance money from a tournament in Rotterdam.
"The Noah and Vilas incidents are only the tip of the iceberg," said Arthur Ashe, former member of the Pro Council board.
"It's definitely an indication of the rules being tightened," said Jerry Solomon, Volvo Grand Prix tournament director. "I don't think it's a coincidence."
While top players reacted indignantly to the action taken against Vilas, others in tennis said they felt the tightening of the rules was inevitable and healthy for the game. For example, Jose-Luis Clerc was defaulted from the Italian Open because he walked off the court during a doubles match.
"Things got way out of control," said M. Marshall Happer, council administrator, in a telephone interview from Paris. "Player conduct, other things. We are in a slow and sure process of trying to bring order to professional tennis."
Happer added: "These incidents just happen. No one planned them. We are dealing with them the way they should be dealt with."
Not everyone agrees. In interviews with the Associated Press from London, where they are competing at the Queen's Club tournament, John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors and Ivan Lendl supported Vilas and even suggested that the issue would bring players together.
Thomas Betz, attorney for Vilas, said he would appeal the suspension, which will not take effect until after the 30-day period for appeal. Betz said he had spoken with Ion Tiriac, Vilas' coach. "He (Vilas) is very, very upset about it," Betz said. I hope he doesn't pull out of Wimbledon. We'll just have to wait and see."
Betz and others wondered why the fine ($10,000) for the tournament organizers was so lenient, compared to Vilas' suspension.
"I think they (the council) were looking to make an example of somebody," Betz said.
"Something will definitely happen soon. You can't stop Vilas making a living on the Grand Prix circuit," Connors said.
"What if it happens to 10-15 other guys? The tournaments are then going to suffer and that does seem to be a shame. I think the players should be allowed to go out and play the game. If I were suspended, it would not do me a lot of harm . . . It would hurt the tournaments."
McEnroe promised to stand behind Vilas. "Maybe a tournament pays $200,000 in prize money and has another $150,000 to spend on advertising and public relations," he said. "If the tournament organizers want to spend part of that money on paying guarantees to a particular player to ensure that he competes, they should be able to do so, in my opinion."
The issue of guarantees paid to lure top players to tournaments has been festering a long time. Ashe estimates as many as 50 percent of the tournaments offer such inducements.
Ashe and others, including Lee Fentress of Advantage International, say appearance money is probably paid to the top 30 players. They say most tournaments that pay such money are out of the United States.
Ashe dates the problem to 1976, when top players realized that they were not receiving as much money from tournaments as their market value could command. With the proliferation of tournaments--76 Grand Prix events this year and competition from the World Championship Tennis circuit--there are simply not enough stars to go around. Promoters who want to ensure a good gate are more than willing to assure the star a guarantee.
Without guarantees, Ashe estimates, the number of Grand Prix tournaments might have been reduced by a third over the last two years. But when tournaments go out of business, it means fewer jobs for players. "When the dust settles, I think the lesser players will realize that the 1982 schedule (97 Grand Prix events) was unrealistic. The glue that held the circuit together was not designations," he said. "It was guarantees. We felt in every place where a top player was designated, he had some sort of a deal there."
The problem, he says, is that it is not always clear when a guarantee is a guarantee. If a company offers a player money to wear its logo at a tournament, for example, it may be an inducement to play, though not actually a guarantee.
Lendl, who is also reported to be under investigation for accepting a guarantee, said, "How can you say what is a guarantee and what is not a guarantee? It is quite wrong to suspend one man for what is going on."