The U.S. Tennis Association, fed up with the misbehavior of some of its Davis Cup players, yesterday laid down a set of guidelines governing their conduct, and Rule One is that they must "act with courtesy and civility towards competitors, officials and spectators."
In a statement in which it was also announced Arthur Ashe will continue as team captain and that Gordon Jorgensen will again serve as chairman of the Davis Cup committee, the USTA said it mailed the behavioral guidelines off to about 30 players, who must agree to the terms before they will be considered for the team.
The statement from USTA President Hunter Delatour said players will be selected "on the basis of ability, availability and willingness to represent the United States in a manner which will bring credit to the individual, the team, and our country . . . While athletic ability is of primary importance in all tennis events, it is expected that such ability will be coupled with courtesy and civility towards competitors, officials and spectators at all times."
The guidelines came after a month-long controversy over the behavior of the Americans in their 4-1 loss to Sweden in the final series in Goteborg, Sweden, in December. The match was marked by tantrums and outbursts from John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors, and the latter was fined $2,500.
Delatour felt that he had to apologize for the team at a postmatch dinner; and Harry Merlo, president of the Louisiana Pacific Corp., which sponsors the team, wrote a letter to the the USTA protesting the behavior of the U.S. players and threatening to withdraw support unless something was done about such outbursts.
Ashe confirmed that the Swedish match had "a hell of a lot" to do with the new guidelines and that both Connors and McEnroe, as well as Peter Fleming, McEnroe's doubles partner, will miss the opening-round 1985 match between the U.S. and Japan, March 8-10. Connors has said he can't fit it into his schedule, and McEnroe is still upset by criticism.
"It's for two reasons," Ashe said yesterday in a telephone interview regarding the personnel changes. "To let those guys cool out and see if they're in the right frame of mind for the next three matches, and to give the up-and-coming players a chance to earn their spurs in Davis Cup. There was a lot of criticism from that last match, obviously, and I think some of it was justified."
McEnroe, who has played Davis Cup for seven straight years, last week agreed it would be good if younger players, such as 17-year-old Aaron Krickstein, got Davis Cup experience in early matches. But he also lashed out at Delatour and Merlo, who circulated several copies of his letter, including ones to the players involved, for their criticism.
"I think the whole thing is one big joke," McEnroe said last week. " . . . And if Hunter Delatour thinks we're embarrassing, he should take a look in the mirror. If they don't want us playing, they should just tell us."
"It's something that was long overdue," Delatour said. "We've had the rules, but people haven't understood that we meant them.
"I hate to have him (McEnroe) feel that we're all against him. We're just trying to make them see that they have to behave more like businessmen, because that's what they are."
Ashe said he and not the USTA will have the final say in who plays Davis Cup. But he added that his reappointment as captain was also not without controversy, and the loss to the Swedes coupled with the controversy could make it difficult to keep McEnroe and Connors in Davis Cup play in the future.
"There were certainly people who wanted to see me (and McEnroe and Connors, as well) fired; that's no secret," he said. "We're the only team in the world that has this problem. We're talking about two players. I think the guys know that if I choose them to play and they don't behave, we're all fired."