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After Turning Wimbledon on Its Ear, 17-Year-Old Boris Becker Discovers the Agony of Victory

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Now it begins for Boris Becker, the 17-year-old wunderkind with the Huck Finn smile and the linebacker’s physique. Two weeks ago the 6’2″, 175-pound West German made history when he became the youngest player ever to win the men’s singles championship at Wimbledon. Worldwide fame, millions of dollars and gargantuan expectations await.

It won’t be easy. The pressure to continue winning will be constant. “It catches up with you,” complained John McEnroe after his quarterfinal loss. “Now I understand how Borg felt.” Björn Borg, a victim of “burnout,” retired at the sclerotic age of 26—Mac’s age now. “Boris isn’t even thinking out there,” said Mac before the final. “He is just playing.” To insure he’d do more playing than thinking, the Becker family kept from Boris the news that his beloved 77-year-old grandfather had died just before the tournament.

Boris must also avoid coming unstrung in the face of the inevitable black comedy media blitz that follows the discovery of a hero. Exhibit A: Just before his center-court victory, one British tabloid—on the basis of a handwriting analysis—announced that the hulking phenom “could have a great future in bed.” The paper’s graphologist gushed that she’d only seen such “amazing” erotic potential once before—in the loops and strokes of Warren Beatty’s lusty script. Boris, it should be pointed out, doesn’t even drive yet, let alone drink or consort with saucy women. When asked what he does for fun, he says, smiling, “I practice tennis.”

Somehow the press finds this irresistibly exotic. To avoid reporters Boris canceled a planned victory celebration in his hometown of Leimen (pop. 19,000) and flew to his modest apartment in Monte Carlo, homeland of the tax-allergic. There Svengali-like manager Ion Tiriac shooed away the Becker-hungry media hordes: “He will not even speak to you for five minutes!” Finally Boris was cornered at the beach. “Are you going to follow me to the toilet now?” he asked. One thing about this kid: He catches on fast.