Three highly ranked tennis players, Guillermo Vilas, Jose Higueras and Eliot Teltscher, or spokesmen for them, deny a suggestion that they are playing in small tournaments in Europe this week because they might be receiving inducements beyond the normal prize money.
John Harris, cochairman of the $200,000 D.C. National Bank Classic, said Monday that it was "interesting" that the three are skipping his tournament. "I'm not accusing anybody of taking guarantee money," Harris said, "that would be a difficult thing to prove. But why does a player go back to Europe to play a small tournament?"
Both Vilas and Teltscher played in the $200,000 U.S. Pro Tennis Championships in Boston last week and are now playing in tournaments worth less than half what the $200,000 D.C. Classic offers.
Teltscher, ranked 17th in the world, said in a telephone interview yesterday that he "forgot to withdraw from Hilversum (Netherlands)." Originally, Teltscher intended to play in Stuttgart, West Germany, last week and the $75,000 International Championships of Netherlands, in Hilversum, this week, but he changed his mind about Stuttgart.
"I just made a mistake. It was during my vacation and I forgot about it. Believe me, I'm not thrilled about coming over here. It was a hell of a flight.
"I think it's terrible for a guy to insinuate that I took guarantee money. He doesn't have any idea of what he's saying. He never contacted me about playing there (in Washington). Just because we (Higueras, Vilas and Teltscher) didn't play his tournament doesn't mean we're taking guarantee money. It's a dangerous thing for him to say."
Vilas, ranked seventh, has been competing lately while the appeal process proceeds on his recent suspension for a year by the Men's International Professional Tennis Council. He was sanctioned for allegedly taking $100,000 to appear in a tournament in Rotterdam, and there have been published reports that other tennis pros have received appearance money.
Vilas is playing at the $100,000 Head Cup Kitzbuehel-Austrian Open in Kitzbuehel, Austria. His coach, Ion Tiriac, is the touring pro for The Tennis Club of Kitzbuehel, host of the tournament.
Tiriac denies that Vilas took any appearance money. "This is my club in Austria, so he plays here for me. He's been playing here for seven years. No, this tournament didn't give him anything . . .
"I have enough problems. I deny any allegation like that (that Vilas took guarantee money)."
Harris replied: "That's his explanation. He has the right to play anywhere. You are allowed to 'play down' four tournaments (a player is required to play the best tournament that he's eligible for, and can play four lesser tournaments). I still don't think the top players should have that leeway."
Like Teltscher, Higueras is playing in Hilversum, a tournament which has been running for 26 years, according to its director, Peter Van Eijsden.
"I did not give either player any money," said Van Eijsden. "I'm probably the only tournament director in Europe who doesn't pay under the table. We're just a poor, small tournament.
"The reason Higueras is here is because he likes to play on clay. Teltscher wants to see Amsterdam."
Higueras' wife Donna said Higueras had committed to Hilversum "months ago."
"Jose has played Boston and Washington before, but he's tired of doing it, mainly because of the heat. We're trying to avoid all that traveling. We have a baby (Jordi) and we want to keep the traveling to a bearable amount."
Donna Higueras denied that her husband received appearance money from the Hilversum tournament.
Van Eijsden offered a solution to the problem of guarantee money: "We should give the players who reach the semifinals a bonus. Then, we can make the little tournaments more interesting."
Harris would like to see the Pro Council actually tell the top players to play certain tournaments, the tournament picking up the plane fare if the player will be a late entrant. "We will discuss this with Jack Kramer (one of nine members of the council) at our meeting in August."