At least 20 to 25 professional tennis players take "guarantee" money to appear in tournaments, Donald Dell said yesterday.

"It's a bit unfair to punish one player for what 20-25 players are doing," said Dell, a lawyer and head of ProServ, an agency that represents professional athletes, many of them tennis players.

Last week, Guillermo Vilas was suspended for a year by the Men's International Professional Tennis Council for accepting $100,000 to play in a tournament in Rotterdam. Vilas, ranked fourth in the world, has 30 days in which to appeal to the three-man review board. Vilas has not, as yet, formally appealed his suspension, although his attorney, Tom Betz, says he will.

"I know they must start somewhere," Dell said at a press conference to promote the D.C. National Bank Classic tournament here July 16-25. "But they're making him an example, a scapegoat. In pro sports, you just don't throw a guy out for a whole year.

"I agree that something has to be done, but they didn't go about it the right way. They better have ironclad, absolute proof."

Dell, cochairman of the D.C. National Bank Classic, said the tournament, now 15 years old, has never paid guarantee money to lure players. "We've never paid anyone; never have and never will. We're a very old and established tournament and we get the best clay-court players to come based on our reputation."

Jimmy Arias, the 12th-ranked player in the world, was at the press conference yesterday and said he does not believe the top two or three players will be suspended. "I can't see them suspending (John) McEnroe. The tour directors would go crazy. Suspending Vilas, that's incredible.

"I'm sure they (McEnroe and Jimmy Connors) have taken guarantee money, but it's kind of tough to pin down," Arias said in response to a question.

Arias, 18, said he has never been approached about accepting any money. "I probably will be, but it won't be going through me. I won't take it. I don't want to be suspended for a year."

Arias, who had to pull out of Wimbledon because of a pulled stomach muscle, says he is excited about playing in Washington. Last year, he reached the final, losing to Ivan Lendl. "Washington is my favorite place. Making the finals started my whole career," he said.

In April, Arias won the Italian Open and a tournament in Florence back to back. He was seeded 10th at Wimbledon. "I really wanted to play Wimbledon. I heard it's an overwhelming place," Arias said.