Each day, the routine is the same. Boris Becker, the tall, 17-year-old Wimbledon champion with the reddish-blond hair, arrives at the Indianapolis Sports Center with his manager Ion Tiriac and his coach Gunther Bosch, and the three begin striding briskly toward the far court where Becker will practice.
At first, only a few youngsters scramble after them. But the entourage grows as they go, reaching 30 before he hits the first ball of the day, and burgeoning to 200 before his practice session for the U.S. Clay Court Championships here is through.
For the most part, the spectators watch quietly, clapping when Becker begins to serve and hit his powerful forehand. Becker jokes with his partner and confers with Bosch, not even glancing at the dozens of cameras that follow his every move. When he finishes practicing, though, decorum disappears. The fans run after him, calling his name and waving pens as he leaves the court. He does not sign any autographs nor turn around.
Other tennis players have inspired this sort of clamoring idolatry, but never has one so young won so big, so suddenly. And even players who were older or won less prestigious titles than Wimbledon have failed to overcome the pressures of their success.
Yannick Noah was 23 when his 1983 French Open victory -- the first by a Frenchman since 1946 -- sent his country into hysterical adulation. After that, Noah did not win another Grand Prix tournament until this year's Italian Open. His second Grand Prix victory since 1983 came earlier this week at the D.C. National Bank Classic in Washington.
"Everybody in the country seemed to enjoy it (when I won)," said Noah, who defeated another Frenchman, Thierry Tulasne, 6-3, 6-4, in the second round here today. "It was very nice. But I couldn't stand to have people always around my house, taking my picture.
"He (Becker) is 17 years old. I think right now there's a lot of pressure on him. People are looking after his results, where he's sleeping.
"He has a good coach (actually manager), Tiriac, who had good experience with this." Tiriac also has handled Guillermo Vilas, who has been a hero in his native Argentina for more than a decade.
"He (Becker) is a nice guy," added Noah. "I think it's going to be okay for him."
On Tuesday, Tiriac stood among the crowd across an empty practice court, watching his protege.
"It bothers him (Becker) when people watch him practice," he said. Yet Becker appeared to be undistracted. "It's one thing to handle it, it's another to be bothered," Tiriac said. "But you can't empty every stadium he plays in for the rest of his life."
"It's been more than I expected," Becker said earlier this week, referring to the attention he has received. "There's lots more pressure and propositions."
Evelyn Krickstein's son Aaron became the youngest player to win a Grand Prix title when, at 16, he won in 1983 at Tel Aviv. She said the pressure to win is particularly tough on a teen-ager.
"It's much easier when they're unseeded, unfavored," she said. "There's no pressure. It's much easier to go out and play and lose. What they've got to do (once they are favored to win) is go out and not think about being seeded sixth or whatever. If you get beaten, you get beaten. Don't worry about those ATP points."
Krickstein, now 17, has fallen from No. 12 in the world last year to No. 20. Today, sixth-seeded Krickstein was upset by Jaro Navratil, 3-6, 6-0, 7-5, in a second-round match.
"Sometimes they're not really mature enough yet," Evelyn Krickstein said. "He (Aaron) knows what he has to do, but he's still only 17. He's still into baseball and rock concerts. They have to be really single-minded. Eventually, that has to come from the player."
Krickstein thinks she sees that kind of singlemindedness in Becker.
"The other day I heard he said he eats, sleeps, plays tennis and once in a while goes to a movie," she said. "That's a hard discipline for a 17-year-old. If you have the potential to be at the top, but don't want to work for it . . .
"You can't get there unless you zero in."
Vilas, who knows what it is like to be idolized, said there is pressure to win, but that Becker's accomplishment should stand alone.
"If you are lucky enough at 17 to win Wimbledon, what else is there to ask?" said Vilas, who today won a second-round match over Pavel Slozil, 6-4, 6-3. "The only thing he has to do is behave like a normal person. What else does he need to prove? If he doesn't win anything in the future, what he did was amazing. It's part of history.
"Some players play 15 years and don't win Wimbledon (Vilas himself never has). He plays one-half year and wins Wimbledon."
Hans Schwaier, the No. 12 seed here and a teammate of Becker's on the West German Davis Cup team that will play the United States in Hamburg next week, said he thinks Becker is confident enough to withstand the pressure of his new status.
"I think he can stand the pressure," said Schwaier, who upset seventh-seeded Jose-Luis Clerc today, 6-3, 6-2, to advance to the quarterfinals. "He doesn't think about it. He just wants to beat (his opponent), whether it's a qualifier or McEnroe. He doesn't care. He thinks he can beat everybody."
The only other seeded player upset in the men's draw today was No. 13 Mark Dickson, who was beaten, 6-2, 6-1, by Lawson Duncan. Eighth-seeded Martin Jaite, runnerup to Noah last week in Washington, moved ahead in straight sets with a 6-3, 7-6 (7-1) victory over Norm Schellenger of Midlothian, Va.
The top two seeds also advanced.
Top-seeded Ivan Lendl, who has said he didn't want to be in the tournament and was only playing to avoid a fine or suspension, beat Slobodan Zivojinovic of Yugoslavia, 6-4, 6-0.
"I didn't want to come here," said Lendl, who was designated to be in the tournament under International Pro Council rules. "I didn't want to play on clay at all before the hard court season. If I don't come here, I would be investigated. So I feel it is better to come here and play a round or two than to have that happen.
"I understand the need for the top players to be in certain tournaments. But I don't understand why this tournament is played on clay just when everyone is trying to get ready for the U.S. Open, which is played on a hard surface.
"I'll try my best, but I don't expect much of it."
Andres Gomez, seeded second and the defending champion, reached the quarterfinals with a 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 victory over ninth-seeded Libor Pimek of Czechoslovakia.
In the women's draw, Anna Ivan upset No. 6 Kathy Horvath, 6-3, 5-7, 7-5; Debbie Spence upset No. 7 Michelle Torres, 6-1, 6-3, and Kate Gompert defeated No. 8 Katerina Maleeva, 6-2, 6-4.