Tennis : United States Not Alone When It Comes to Having Davis Cup Problems

It's Davis Cup week, and the male portion of the tennis world will take a break from tournaments and draw attention to match play between nations. If you think the United States, with the flap over John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors refusing to sign code of conduct pledges, is the only nation that has trouble drumming up patriotic support, guess again.

The Czechs dearly wish Ivan Lendl would come home to play, since the presence of the No. 1 player would surely boost their chances against India. Lendl let it be known to the Czechoslovakian federation that he was not interested in playing Davis Cup. Now or maybe ever.

This week, the Czech playing-captain, Jan Kodes, turned the tables and said they didn't want Lendl.

"We have not drafted Ivan Lendl because he did not fulfill our expectations last year," Kodes said. "Even now, he has not convinced us that he has maximum interest in playing on the national team."

And now, from the land of placid players, comes this news. Swedish tennis players are reviving an old dispute with the Swedish Tennis Assn. regarding payments to Davis Cup players.

The players rejected the offer of $29,000 to each player if the team defends its 1985 Cup title, half that amount as runners-up and nothing if the team fails to reach the final.

"The real problem is not the payment, but that they never show any appreciation for what we do, and they also take in sponsor money on the sly," said Joakim Nystrom, a member of last year's Swedish Davis Cup team.

"Two years ago I was willing to play for free and even renounce my sponsor money by using their T-shirts instead of my own, but my attitude has reversed 180 degrees," he added.

The pay conflict began a few years ago when promising junior players, including Mats Wilander, Stefan Edberg, Anders Jarryd and Nystrom, signed a contract with the Swedish Tennis Assn. The contract said that they would play on the Davis Cup team for nothing, since the association had supported them on their way up.

The players now call the agreement a "slave contract."

Nevertheless, the top Swedes are playing Davis Cup this week in Denmark. No doubt, more will be heard on this later.

Last week was a tough one all around for Martina Navratilova.

First she was eliminated from the Virginia Slims of California with a loss to 15th-ranked Kathy Jordan.

Then Navratilova was detained at the San Francisco airport when a handgun was discovered in her pocketbook.

Navratilova had this to say about the gun: "I want to keep this statement short so as not to confuse the issue further. Through a series of circumstances, my gun ended up in my pocketbook. I don't want to elaborate on those circumstances.

"I've had the gun for over a year. I was advised to purchase it after a series of murders occurred (against women) in my neighborhood (in Fort Worth). One woman was beheaded and a woman who lives in an apartment building across the street from my house was murdered.

"I'm careful with it, I've had lessons. I'm glad they found it. I would be mortified if they didn't.

"It's sad I need to carry a gun. A lot of women bought them a year ago (in Fort Worth) to protect themselves. It's natural that I carry it on the road since it is easy to find out where we are staying. I am embarrassed that I got caught."

Navratilova has had better days. She had this to say of the fateful 24-hour stretch: "As they say in country music, 'If today were a fish, I'd throw it back in.' "

Tennis Notes Mats Wilander, on why John McEnroe invited him to play in a series of exhibitions: "It seems like he always respected me. I think he always respected Swedish players. You know that's because of Bjorn (Borg). Most of us, we all behave the same way, and I think he respects players who behave good. I really feel that, because I think he would like to be one of those, who behaves very good. I really think so."

Stephane Bonneau lost in the last round of qualifying at the International Players Tournament at Boca Raton, Fla., last month and he quickly got on a plane to Montreal. In the meantime, Pedro Rebolledo withdrew from the tournament, leaving an opening.

The person at the tournament's transport desk who had made Bonneau's flight arrangements remembered that he would be changing planes in Atlanta. The tournament worker contacted the airline to give Bonneau an urgent message: "You're in the main draw. Come back."

The plane had left the gate in Atlanta, but the message was radioed to the pilot. The pilot gave it to a stewardess, who gave the message to Bonneau. As he returned the plane to the gate, the pilot announced to the passengers what was going on and they cheered Bonneau as he left the plane. Happy ending? Sorry. Bonneau lost in the first round.

Mel Purcell, who has been absent from the tour because of an elbow injury, beat Slobodan Zivojinovic in the first round at Boca Raton. He called the victory "my wedding gift to John and Tatum." You may remember that Zivojinovic eliminated McEnroe from the Australian Open in a match where McEnroe told the Yugoslav, "You'll pay for this." It's no secret that Chris Evert Lloyd has taken a new, more aggressive approach to her tennis training. Now this from husband John Lloyd:

"I feel like I've wasted four years of my career. Some people wonder how I can still be eager at 31 when I've been playing for 16 years. I realize that time is running short and I have wasted a lot of ability that I am lucky to have. I don't want to, 10 years down the road, look at myself and say, 'What an idiot you were.'

"I still think I am an idiot because I've wasted a lot of very good years when I could have been a lot better. I think there are a lot of players on the tour right now that are doing the same thing. They're in their 20s and they always figure they've got another year. But, believe me, it goes by so quick and they'll be 28 or 29 and they'll suddenly think, 'Gee, what did I do?' Then it will be too late, and that's very sad."

The U.S. Davis Cup team opened play against Ecuador last week on clay. A troubling stat for the Americans: Every U.S. loss in the past five years has been on clay.

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