There is a new star in tennis tonight, a brash, precocious teen-ager who has arrived at the top of the sport well before his time.
When Kevin Curren could only flail at Boris Becker's final serve on Wimbledon's Centre Court today, Becker immediately became a part of history. With his 6-3, 6-7 (4-7), 7-6 (7-4), 6-4 victory, he became, at 17, the youngest man to win a Wimbledon singles title, the first West German to win here and the first unseeded player of either sex to win a Wimbledon title.
Not a bad day's work.
"I know I am the first German to win Wimbledon," Becker said. "I think this will change tennis in Germany. We have never had an idol there before."
Bold words from one so young, but no doubt true ones. Becker came here the No. 20 player in the world, a player with a great future in only his second year as a pro. He leaves as the game's new shining light.
Becker has star quality. He is 6 feet 2 and weighs 175 pounds. But he looks much bigger with broad shoulders, tree-trunk legs and the kind of strength rarely seen in tennis. He also has red hair and freckles, a quick smile and an easy charm off the court that belies his intensity on it.
On the court, Becker is almost a bully, shaking his fist after big shots, occasionally hot dogging with little dances.
Twice, during tie breakers in the semifinals and final, he appeared to try to run down his opponent during court changes.
"I was doing that?" he asked innocently. "That's the first I've heard of it."
Becker's cunning is not surprising. He is coached by Ion Tiriac, the master strategist who in the past shaped such players as Ilie Nastase and Guillermo Vilas.
During his semifinal victory over Anders Jarryd, Becker was warned for receiving coaching signals from Tiriac, who sat in the friends box, impassively blowing cigarette rings.
"He can be the No. 1 player in the world," Curren said. "I think more and more in tennis, you are going to see young players maturing very young.
"The coaches have a lot to do with it. In the past, if a 17-year-old came out on tour he would be bewildered by the travel, the schedules, the press, everything. Now, all that is taken care of."
In fact, Becker, under Tiriac's tutelage, has become quite single-minded about his tennis. Asked last week what he did for fun away from tennis, Becker smiled and said, "I practice tennis."
It was not always that way. Born in Leimen, a small town near Heidelberg in southern Germany, Becker is the son of Karl-Heinz and Elvira Becker. His father, an architect, built a tennis center in Leimen, where Becker learned the game. But until he was 12, he played as much soccer as tennis.
Today, Becker displayed those skills at one point, taking a bouncing ball and playing it off his chest, head and right foot in smooth, striker-like fashion, after a missed serve by Curren.
At 9, Becker began working with Gunther Bosch, a Romanian living in Germany. "He always had the good forehand and backhand," Bosch said. "The potential was always there. The head needed work."
Enter Tiriac. With Vilas fading, Tiriac, at the urging of Bosch -- who grew up in the same Romanian town as the coach -- began working with Becker late last year. The results came slowly. Now they are coming with a rush. Three weeks ago, Becker won his first Grand Prix tournament, the Wimbledon warmup at Queen's Club.
Throughout this tournament, opponents spoke of him as a future champion, a player capable of winning Wimbledon, but not now, not when he still was considerably younger than Bjorn Borg, Rod Laver, Lew Hoad, Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe were when they won their first Wimbledons.
But he won. He won with some luck -- "I think not having to face McEnroe or Connors was a break for him," said Curren, 27, who upset both -- and he won with his considerable skills, a huge first serve and brilliant topspin ground strokes.
But more than that, Becker won with heart. In the third round, Joakim Nystrom, who is No. 8 in the world, twice served for the match in the fifth set. Both times, Becker broke Nystrom's serve, finally winning, 9-7.
In the fourth round, Becker tumbled in the fourth set against Tim Mayotte. One year ago, he fell on the same ankle here and was carried out on a stretcher with torn tendons. This time, he got up, winning a fourth-set tie breaker and the fifth set.
Today, down a service break in the crucial third set, he reached back again, broke back and won the tie breaker. "I decided," he said, "to just go for it."
For two weeks, that is all Becker did. He never blinked under pressure. Maybe, as Curren suggested, he was too young to know he was too young to win Wimbledon.
In a sport that has seen no change in the top four for four years, Becker's victory is a breath of fresh air. McEnroe himself said last week, "It would be good for men's tennis to have some new faces break through."
Today, Becker most definitely broke through. With his aggressiveness and on-court arrogance, he almost undoubtedly will break through again.
Tonight, he was to celebrate with his parents, who flew in for the match. How? "Maybe," he said impishly, "we will drink some champagne."
Becker isn't old enough to drink champagne. But then, he isn't old enough to win Wimbledon. Today, he did both.