It's a little strange to hear Harold Solomon talking about injuries, a lack of stamina, or rustiness, yet he struggles daily with each. Returning to competitive tennis, albeit the Grand Champions circuit and not the men's professional tour, has proven difficult even for one of the best-conditioned players of the 1970s.

"These aren't the best set of circumstances," said Solomon, 37, who took time away from his family's car rental company in Florida yesterday to visit the area and promote next week's Grand Champions circuit Washington stop, July 12-15, at the FitzGerald Tennis Center. "At least I'm forced to stay in shape."

That is Solomon's problem. With a full-time job and a family, in addition to his work with the End World Hunger project, there's little time for tennis. Somehow, though, Solomon plans to be ready for the tournament, his first 35-and-over event in a year and half.

His appearances on the Grand Champions circuit -- for players 35 and over who have won a Grand Slam title, played on a Davis Cup team, been ranked No. 1 in their country, or earned $1 million in career prize money -- haven't been as successful as you'd expect. He has suffered losses to players he regularly defeated in the past.

Solomon, remember, drank 22 bottles of water in the 1976 French Open semifinals and still lost 13 pounds. At 5 feet 5 1/2, he was one of the pro circuit's fittest and fastest players, winning 22 titles and $1.8 million in a 13-year career.

"You don't like to go out and lose to guys that you beat when you played them before," said Solomon, a Silver Spring native once ranked No. 5 in the world. "It was tough for me from, I guess, an ego point of view, to go out and lose to guys just because I didn't prepare enough. So I made a commitment about a month ago to get myself back in shape, and see how it goes."

Depending on his fitness, a return to Washington could go very well for Solomon, whose first professional victory occurred here in 1974. He reached the final of the D.C. Classic in 1975, then won the tournament for a second time in 1976, the year he won a career-high five titles and reached the French Open final.

To achieve another victory, he'll have to overcome a field scheduled to include Vijay Amritraj, Peter Fleming and Bob Lutz. In addition, Solomon is recovering from soreness in his left ankle, the result of two sprains in the past five weeks.

The tournament, one of nine stops on the circuit, is a prelude to the Sovran Bank Classic here July 16-22. Qualifying matches for the Sovran tournament are played during the day, with Grand Champions matches in the evening.

"I have a lot of good memories here," Solomon said. "Hopefully, the weather will be like {Monday's}. Normally during this tournament, the weather is 95 degrees and 95 percent humidity, and guys are getting carried to the hospital."