Officials of the Sovran Bank/D.C. National Tennis Classic that will be played here next week used a news conference yesterday to express frustration that more attention has been given to the problems surrounding construction of Washington's new tennis facility than what they see as the role of the tournament.

ProServ president Donald Dell complained that media attention has focused on problems in constructing the projected $7 million tennis center at Rock Creek Park and not the significant financial impact the tournament plays in funding local tennis.

"I just feel that nobody understands our message. And our message is junior tennis," said Dell, whose organization runs the tournament. "We're really about having a ton of black kids playing tennis {in Washington} and a lot of kids in Virginia and Maryland."

The new facility, set to be completed in 1988, will have 15 clay and 11 hard courts and will seat about 7,500 where 5,000 currently can attend. More than $2 million has been raised through the private donations.

However, final agreements have yet to be signed for the project by the National Park Service, which runs the facility, and the National Capital Planning Commission, which has jurisdiction over such arrangements. In addition, there has been concern by some residents over potential aggravated traffic problems in the area.

During the conference, Dell's anger centered on the lack of coverage of the use of tournament proceeds by the Washington Area Tennis Patrons, a nonprofit, charitable organization that is the co-beneficiary of the tournament. The patrons split the profits with ProServ after receiving the first $50,000 in ticket revenues. The patrons annually get about $100,000 from the tournament.

The 76 area facilities funded by the patrons that provide tennis instruction to area youth receive more than half their yearly operating budget out of ticket sales from the tournament, Dell said.

"Baseball doesn't give their profits back to Little League baseball in downtown Washington. But that's what we've been doing for 19 years," he said.

Almost lost in the shuffle was the appearance of Brad Gilbert, currently ranked 14th in the world and one of the top U.S. players. With the U.S. Open a month away, he said, the need to play on a similar {hard court} surface is the main factor in deciding what events to enter meantime.

"I'm sure he {Gilbert} would have never been here if it was a clay court," Dell said.

"I think it's a big step that this year's tournament is on hard court," said Gilbert, referring to the Rock Creek switch from a clay surface to Deco-Turf II, similar to the court surface used at the Open.

"The one thing that was kind of difficult was four weeks away, you have the U.S. Open. This is the kind of thing you need," Gilbert said.

"Toronto went to hard courts. Then Volvo after us. And that put pressure on us {to change}," Dell said. Only one of the traditional five tournaments played on clay -- Boston -- has not changed to a hard surface in line with the Open's.

"The game has changed to where guys can specialize on surfaces. I think that's why it's so difficult to win the Grand Slam," Gilbert said.

Dell said the main stadium court and two outside courts were completed for the Prudential-Bache Securities Grand Champions (35 and over), which starts Friday. Three other courts are to be finished this week.

And, following the tournament, local youngsters will have "brand new Deco-Turf courts that are as good as the U.S. Open," Dell said. "And nobody writes a word about it."

Gilbert said he would like to see more action on the U.S. Tennis Association's part in developing younger players. "People are not really getting involved. The USTA makes $20 million off the U.S. Open," he said.

The emphasis on winning early is so great, Gilbert said, that those who don't are abandoned before their games have a chance to mature. "We're so used to having success . . . if the kid takes time to develop we give up on him," he said.

Gilbert called for "better unity between tournaments and surfaces," with clay court tournaments held before the French Open, grass tournaments before Wimbledon, and so on. He also said he thought a January-October season is enough tennis for a year.

"Right now, we have no offseason," he said.

Tournament director John Harris said that while most tickets for the evening matches have been sold, top seeds such as Ivan Lendl, Boris Becker and Jimmy Connors likely will play in the afternoon. The players asked for the afternoon matches to get used to playing in daytime heat.