Billy Jean King, who was then Billie Jean Moffit, first played in the Wimbledon tennis championships and won the doubles in 1961, a year and a half before Tracy Austin was born.

When King won the first of her postwar-singles six singles titles in 1966, Austin was 3 1/2 -- knocking over lamps in the living room of her Rolling Hills, Calif., home with the sawed-off racket her parents gave her when she was 2.

Monday afternoon, as the second week of Wimbledon's 102nd year connences. King and Austin will play each other for the first time, on the Center Court of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club

This should be a fascinating study in psychology as well as match play, one of those rare and precious bridges across a generation that is elevated because the setting is just right.

Women's tennis, which still suffers from an appalling gap in ability between the top players and the masses, was overshadowed at Wimbledon last week by the men, whose superior depth produced a wave of upsets and these unlikely quarterfinals pairings: Bjorn Borg versus Tom Okker, Jimmy Connors versus Bill Scanlon, Adriano 1panatta versus Tim Gullkson.

In the second week, the men's and women's singles will be played on alternate days -- the men's free-for-all will resume Tuesday -- and so the women will have their time in the sun in the unlikely event that it decides to shine.

While the men were leaving their seedings list in an umprecedented shambles, the women went almost strictly according to form last week.

But now that the top eight seeds have arrived safely in the quarterfinals, WIMBLEDON, From D1 the women's tournament can begin in earnest. The pairings are attractive: defending champion Martina Navratilova vs. Dianne Fromholtz, King vs. Austin, 1977 champion Virginia Wade vs. 1971 champ Evonne Goolagong Crawley, and 1974-76 champion Cris Evert Llyod vs. Wendy Turnbull.

"I really think there are six of us perfectly capable of winning the championship, and it's been some time since I could say that honestly," Wade, 33 said.

Wade and Goolagong have played some enthralling matches and should provide a rousing overture on Center Court Monday.

But the King-Austin match is the one that excites the imagination. This is the Past against the Future, a splendidly refurbished antique against next year's shiny new model.

Logic dictates that Austin should win. A pro since last October, she has swiftly risen to No. 3 in the world rankings, behind only Navratilova and Evert, both of whom she has beaten.

She is not easily awed, as she demonstrated in snapping Evert's six-year, 125-match clay court winning streak en route to winning the Italian Open title in May. She is peeved about being seeded only No.4 at Wimbledon, behind Goolagong, whom she beat, 6-1, 6-0, in their only meeting.

It is difficult to think of Austin who will earn between $500,000 and $1 million her first year as a pro, as a giggling 16-year-old who will enter the 11th grade next September, is just starting to date, and thinks John Travolta is "neat."

"babycakes" -- as King calls Austin, who wrinkles her nose in disapproval at the nickname -- still can't drive the scarlet Porshe 924 she won in her first pro tournament at Stuttgart last October because she doesn't yet have a driver's license. But as a tennis player, she is mush older than sweet 16.

"In tennis terms, she has years of experience," says Wade, King's contemporary. "I look at her as if she were a player of 25 or 28.

Austin was 5 feet 1 and 90 pounds when she came to Wimbledon the first time two years ago, a wide-eyed 14-year-old in pinafores and braces, and lost to Evert on Center Court. She is 5-5 and 110 pounds now, a much more powerful and self-assured player.

"the first two years, I came here thinking that there was no possible way I coyld win, thinking I had no chance," she sas, "I came here this year thinking I have a chance. I'm not saying I'm going to win it, just that I have a fair chance."

Meanwhile King, at 35, is "Old Lady." The zipper-like scars around her kneecaps have been there for years, the result of three operations. This year she has three new scars on her left foot, reminders of 3 1/2 hours of surgery in December.

Despite all her time on the operating table and in the gym working to rehabilitate herself, King has not missed a Wimbledon in 19 years -- although she sat out the singles in 1976.

She has played more singles matches [94] than any other player in Wimbledon history. She has won six singles, nine doubles and four mixed doubles titles, tying her with Elizabeth Ryan, now 87, for the career record for total Wimbledon crowns. If she beats Austin, it will be her 200th Wimbledon victory.

A month ago, she did not even expect to play the singles. Her foot operation was on December 22, and she expected it would be nine months or a year before she could play singles again.

Three weeks age, she played her first tournament in 11 months, at Chichester. She walloped Navratilova, and lost to Goolagong in the final. Wimbledon officials took note and not only accepted her late entry for singles, but seeded her seventh.

"physically I feel like a kid again. I'm in the best shape I have been since 1975," she said after cruising through Wimbledon's first week, beating Yvonne Vermaak, 6-4, 6-1; Linda Siegel, 6-1, 6-3; Diana Desfor, 6-3, 6-2 and Hana Mandlikova, 6-4, 6-3.

Privately, she told friends she thinks she can win the tournament. In the dressing room, her optimism has not gone unnoticed by other players.

"She's been rolling along quite happily and I sort of have a strange inkling that she's going to do very well in the tournament," Wade said.

"It's a funny thing, because if Tracy plays as well as she has in a lot of matches this year, I would think that she would go straight through Billie, but I just have a feeling she won't

"billie Jean has always played such great matches at Wimbledon, I think it could definitely be tough for Tracy."

Wimbledon has always been King's most inspiring stage. Her former doubles partner, Rosemary Casala, calls Centre Court "the old lady's house." She has played 94 singles matches at Wimbledon, compared to eight for Austin.

"intentionally, or unintentionally, Billie Jean intimidates her opponents," said Evert, who always considered King the most difficult player to contend with, psychllogically.

"she is a champion and in 10 years she will be a champion, whether or not she's playing. That intimidates the girls who have to play against her.

"tracy has been in awe of Billie Jean and her reputation. There could be a few games decided there. But Tracy is her own woman now, and she has her mother and others close to her to protect her against the vibrations in the locker room.

"she keeps her distance, and that is wise. She is still very young, and it would be easy for her to suffer from the pressures, especially when she has to cope with them on Centre Court, which is Billie Jean's element, the place she loves to play." CAPTION: Picture, Still winning at 35, Billie Jean King returns forehand to Hana Mandlikova, another Wimbledon victim. AP