Wimbledon finalist Chris Lewis has agreed to play in the D.C. National Bank Tennis Classic in two weeks and tournament cochairman John Harris says he is still trying to attract defending champion Ivan Lendl.
At the moment, the highest rated player entered in the tournament is No. 8 Gene Mayer, but Harris said yesterday, "the public will not be cheated. People will say 'he's just a promoter, he's just saying that.'
". . . I do feel the field is very strong in terms of clay-court players. From a crowd point of view, people want to see superstars, but look at Lewis (ranked 91 before Wimbledon).
"He made the finals at Wimbledon. They all can play."
Lendl's agent, Gerry Solomon, is talking to Lendl about the possibility of returning to Washington. Solomon works for ProServ, the firm headed by tournament cochairman Donald Dell.
Solomon and Lendl are both in Europe and were not available yesterday.
In addition to Lewis, who lost in straight sets to John McEnroe at Wimbledon Sunday, and Mayer, the tournament has attracted Jose-Luis Clerc, ranked 10th, and Jimmy Arias, ranked 13th. The tournament runs July 16-25 at Rock Creek Tennis Stadium.
Harris says he is still hoping to attract other top-10 players. "Traditionally we haven't had much trouble," he said. "We've got people in Europe working on getting some top players."
The D.C. Classic does not offer guarantee money, according to Harris. "We don't believe in it, never have. I'm violently opposed to it. We don't offer them anything. We hope to convince them that the tourney's good for them. That it's good for experience, conditioning, and building confidence."
Signing up top players is a little bit of a problem, Harris admitted. "But some of the best players, like Connors and McEnroe don't usually play clay. It would be helpful if we could get some more top 10 players."
Yannick Noah, the French Open champion, had committed to play here this year. Because of a 49-day suspension for refusing to play in the Nations Cup last year, he will miss the D.C. Classic.
"We had Noah, who was as attractive as anyone on clay. The suspension hurt us more than him," Harris said. "Mayer has been here before and it's in his best interest to play, because he's been injured."
Other top players scheduled to compete are Brian Gottfried (16th), Mel Purcell (26th), Hans Gildemeister (33rd), Andres Gomez (35th), and Rodney Harmon (60th). Dan Goldie, from McLean, who played third singles for Stanford this year, will make his professional debut.
"I'd love to have John McEnroe play here," Harris said. "But I don't think he'd win on this surface. Jimmy Connors has played here in the past. He used the tournament to get in shape for the U.S. Open. But now that he's older, he's not really in the condition to do it.
"There's no control at all in terms of the Pro Council of having any hard designations. The council can't tell McEnroe to play Washington. They need more control over the players, who don't want anyone telling them what to do."