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Tennis : Gorman Plans to Be Accessible as Captain of U.S. Davis Cup Team

January 12, 1986|JULIE CART

Tom Gorman, speaking by phone from Portland, was sounding a little harried. After less than a month on the job, the new Davis Cup captain has been busy scouting for potential team members.

"I'm here at a tournament looking at players," Gorman said. "I've been trying to contact, either by phone or in person, as many of the top players as I can. I want to become more visible to them. I know most of them, but this is in a different role, now."

Gorman's roles have been many. The Seattle native played Davis Cup for three years and was ranked as high as No. 8 as a pro player. For the last two years, Gorman has served as the coach of the U.S. Federation and Wightman Cup teams.

He said that the U.S. Tennis Assn. has changed its idea of what the Davis Cup captain should be responsible for doing.

"The USTA was looking to expand the role of captain," he said. "That meant that the people they would hire for it would have to have the time to give. There hasn't been any one specific expansion, but more of an extension of things they tried to put in place last year.

"I think I will be traveling more than any captain has in the past. I will be going to tournaments and being there with the team players on a year-round basis. I think it's important for the players to know that we (USTA) are there all the time."

Arthur Ashe, who resigned as captain last October, had often commented that the role of the Davis Cup captain was so circumscribed as to choke off the authority of the person in the position. The captain is not a coach. He selects the team and decides which players play singles and which doubles.

Gorman expects that to stretch, too.

"I'm going to be more physically accessible at tournaments," he said. "That's important. I'm planning out my year right now, and it will include being at more tournaments. I want to be there if the players have a problem or if they want someone to practice with. Not coaching as such, but yes, when it's asked for. And always within the confines of Davis Cup. I don't plan to infringe on the territory of the player and his personal coach."

As Gorman scours the country, looking for potential players, he will not be burdened by the unpopular code of conduct.

The 1985, team members were required to sign a pledge that they would adhere to strict behavior guidelines. In December 1984, during the Davis Cup final between the United States and Sweden, Jimmy Connors was fined for his court behavior, and John McEnroe created a controversy when he criticized the indoor clay surface.

Last year, Connors and McEnroe refused to sign the pledge and did not play. The U.S team beat Japan but lost to West Germany. The 1986 team members no longer have to promise in writing that they will behave, but Gorman wants to make the point to them, anyway. He has avoided comment on the code of conduct.

"What I'm in favor of is that we have a team and players who are fully aware that they are representing the United States," he said. "Guidelines and a code of conduct are very important. My lack of comment in regard to the signing of the code is simply because it's not a requirement in 1986. I'd just as soon start from there."

Gorman said he hadn't contacted either Connors or McEnroe but that he would do so this week at the Nabisco Masters in New York.

"It's up to them," he said. "If they are leaning toward playing, then that's when we'll get into our discussions of working with them. It's something you don't know about until you sit down with them.

"Really, what I want to do is get a list of guys who are excited about playing Davis Cup."

What Gorman also wants to do is put the brakes on Sweden's dominance of Davis Cup. That may happen if McEnroe, formerly a staunch Davis Cup supporter, decides to return to the team.

"I think you can simply pinpoint the resurgence of Davis Cup, and America's success in it, to the participation of John McEnroe," Gorman said.

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