Boris Becker, der sieger von Wimbledon, showed today that, at least for now, he also is conqueror of the pressures accompanying his phenomenal success.
He strolled freely around the hotel where he is staying during the U.S. Open Clay Courts Championships here this week, wandering into the newsstand to pick up a bottle of diet soda and a granola bar, speaking politely to those who spoke to him.
"There is much more public and press now," said Becker, 17, who just over two weeks ago became the youngest player and the first West German to win the singles championship at the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club.
"Before Wimbledon and before Queens (a Wimbledon warm-up tournament he also won) I was nobody. Now I'm sitting in a room before 50 people.
"It has been more than I expected," he said. In his home town of Leimen, West Germany, throngs turned out for his welcome-home parade. "My home town has 10,000 people," he said. "That day, it was 40,000.
"I have more responsibility than before. I'm trying to handle it."
Thus far, his method of handling the pressure has been to assert himself, making his likes and dislikes clear.
For instance, he does not like one moniker attached to him.
"My name is Boris, not Boom-Boom," he said. "I don't like it (the nickname) too much. My name is not Boom-Boom. My mother said to me: Boris."
Nor does he want to be tagged as a typical teen-ager. "I do not like hamburgers," he said. "I eat normal food. Normal German food."
When asked by a reporter how he liked the role of teen idol, Becker, whom manager Ion Tiriac calls "Mr. Becker," said, "You're a man and I'm a man. I like women like you do."
As strongly as he asserts his personality, Becker also repeats that his tennis game has not completely come of age.
"My main goal was to win Wimbledon sometime," he said. "Now, I'm 17 and in my first year as a pro. I won Wimbledon now, a bit earlier (than he expected).
"Now, at the moment, I'm still learning. I try to improve on everything every day. I'm going on court to win a match. I'd like to win every match.
"I'm going onto the court to fight for every ball. It was that way before Wimbledon and is that way now."
Becker, whose ranking jumped to No. 8 in the world, might be the first Wimbledon winner to say he is not ready to be No. 1. "For the next two years, I'm still learning," he said. "Hopefully, when I'm 19 or 20 I'll be ready to challenge for No. 1."
Trying to be No. 1 in this tournament is challenge enough for now, Becker said.
The unfortunate one who will play Becker in his first tournament match since Wimbledon is qualifier Michael Pernfors of Sweden, the two-time NCAA champion for the University of Georgia. They will meet at 8 p.m. Tuesday in a second-round match.
"He's in a situation where he's just won Wimbledon. He's going to have pressure on him," said Pernfors, who has been on the pro tour just three weeks. Pausing, he added, "I hope."
Becker, who missed the Washington stop on the circuit with an ankle injury, has a difficult road to the final here. He is seeded third, behind Ivan Lendl and Andres Gomez, and is in Lendl's side of the draw. Within his quarter of the bracket, Becker must compete with fifth-seeded Miloslav Mecir as well as clay-court specialists Francesco Cancellotti (No. 11) and Joan Aguilera (No. 14).
Although Becker grew up playing on the clay courts of Europe, the slower surface is not as beneficial to his serve-and-volley game as the speedy grass of Wimbledon, which, Becker admitted with a smile, is "probably" his favorite surface.
"On clay, the ball bounces much higher," he said. "It is a different way to play." For the artificial clay here, which is faster than the red clay of Europe, Becker will wear different shoes and have his racket strung with less tension.
But you can bet he still will be taking some spills. "I'm always diving, since I was 10," he said. "When I see the ball, and that I cannot reach it by my legs, I jump."
Along with his sudden fame have come many business propositions. Standing by to help the young man who seems to need no help is Tiriac.
"You have to take a risk," he said. "When I picked Boris Becker -- I'm a very modest guy -- I didn't miss here.
"I call myself a manager, not an agent. For me, it is much more important to bring up a player than to market him. It doesn't matter if you're a genius, someone like Mr. Becker is going to market himself. He's still green but he's real.
"My marketing philosophy was never to hit anybody with a product. If your product is good, you better be careful who you make deals with."
Becker's immediate plans after playing here include the Davis Cup against the United States in Hamburg, West Germany, where it is likely he will play 17-year-old Aaron Krickstein. That will be followed by the Austrian Open. He then either will play a few exhibitions or take time off to prepare for the U.S. Open, which begins Aug. 26.