Moments after he shocked John McEnroe in the quarterfinals of Wimbledon today, Kevin Curren was asked if he thought he'd helped his chances of being selected for the U.S. Davis Cup team.

"I hope," he said, "It will have a positive affect."

He might very well represent the United States in the Davis Cup, even though he was born and raised in South Africa, a nation barred from Davis Cup play because of its apartheid policies.

He might be joined on the team by Johan Kriek, also from South Africa. Kriek has been a U.S. citizen for three years, Curren for two months.

With McEnroe and Jimmy Connors not playing this year because of a dispute with the U.S. Tennis Association, Curren and Kriek are the highest ranked Americans available. Arthur Ashe, captain of the U.S. Davis Cup team, knows that, if he picks them, he will be criticized by some.

"But it would not stop me from selecting them," said Ashe, who is black and an ardent critic of apartheid. "They are Americans. If they are the best players, I'll select them. If we beat (West) Germany on clay in August, we'll probably play Czechoslovakia on a fast surface. On a fast surface, I would say there's an excellent chance I'll select them to play."

"I know if we're selected, politics will become an issue," Kriek said. "I became an American not because I was persecuted but because my country is in political turmoil. I know the issue will be raised.

"What do I say when the question is asked? If I'm critical of South Africa my family and friends who are all still back home will be nailed. If I don't say anything, others will say I'm condoning what goes on by being silent. I can't win no matter what.

"But I want to play. It would be an honor and it would mean a lot to me. When I was 12, I lived on a farm (in the town of Pongola), spoke Afrikaans and never even dreamed of leaving South Africa . . .

"I know it's a delicate issue for Arthur, especially being a black perhaps picking South Africans to play for the U.S. But I think I have a very broad view politically. I've never said South Africa doesn't have problems but there's racism everywhere in the world . . . There's racism in every city in the States. Look at a place like Uganda.

"But South Africa is an easy target because everything is so clear cut."

Curren agrees. "I will always be a true South African. I can't change that. I grew up there, I spent 18 years of my life there, I can't change the feelings I have for the country. Even though I don't agree with the government's policies, I'm treated as if I do. That's not right. Johan and I are both caught in the middle."

They both are 27, but have very different backgrounds. Curren attended the University of Texas. Kriek was educated in South Africa and became a U.S. citizen after marrying an American.

They have never been close friends. They are playing doubles together for the first time here and today reached the quarterfinals.

"I think we could be a very good doubles team," Kriek said. "I think Arthur could pick us for singles or doubles or both."

Ashe says he is intrigued by Kriek and Curren as a doubles team but is still inclined to go with Ken Flach and Robert Seguso, who have emerged as one of the better teams in the world this year. He also hopes McEnroe will change his mind and play.

"I'm going to try to talk to John next week," Ashe said. "I'm hoping that a compromise might still be possible. I don't have much hope and I expect a no, but I'm going to try."

"I never say 'no matter what,' " McEnroe said. "But the time for compromise or negotiation was nine months ago. I've played for seven years. I like to play. If Arthur wants to talk, I'll talk. But I'm pretty sure it's too late for anything to change."

Which leaves Kriek and Curren. "I know there could be a problem with the reaction of some of the other guys on the team if I select them," Ashe said. "There are people who become Americans because they believe in the American way of life. There are also people who become Americans because it is a practical solution to a dilemma."

Kriek and Curren make no secret that they fall into the latter category.

Ashe insists politics will not affect his decision. "They are Americans, they are eligible and, if I think they are the best players, they will be chosen," he said.