It's been an interesting nine months for Boris Becker. He has met Sean Connery, window-shopped along Fifth Avenue, beaten Jimmy Connors and Ivan Lendl back-to-back, and turned 18 (finally).
"Wimbledon seems like such a long time ago," he says.
For Boris Becker, life imitates tennis. Which is to say, it's going along at breakneck speed, and it's going along well.
Yesterday, he was packing his suitcase in an Atlanta hotel. Today, he comes to Washington for a day. In the next five weeks, he will land on tennis courts in Dallas, Tokyo, Monte Carlo, West Germany and New York.
If it's Monday, this must be Washington. It's his first visit. He says he's very excited.
"Yeah, I mean it's the White House, you know," he said over the phone from his Atlanta hotel room.
Becker is here to play an exhibition match at 7:30 p.m. today against Guillermo Vilas at George Washington University's Smith Center. He and Vilas will play a best-of-three set match and a doubles match with two Special Olympians. Becker also is scheduled to visit the White House and play a private afternoon doubles match with Vilas, Secretary of State George Shultz and Undersecretary of State Michael Armacost.
Since last July, when he became the youngest man to win a Wimbledon singles title, Becker has worked on every part of his game -- including his staying power.
It's one thing, he knows, to be a phenom. It's entirely another thing to be an established tennis star.
"Sometimes, it's not easy," he says. "People expect you to win every match now. If you lose, it's World War III. Well, in Germany, it's World War III. It's a disaster, let's say."
Becker says he is searching for consistency. It's elusive.
Two weeks ago, he was eliminated in the first round of a tournament in Belgium. Last week, he ended Lendl's 29-match winning streak in the final of the Chicago Grand Prix after beating Connors in the semifinals. This past week, he lost early in Atlanta's WCT tournament.
"I have to get consistency and experience like Lendl has, and that comes only with age," Becker says. "I don't think Lendl is any better a tennis player than I am. He just plays all the time."
So Becker, ranked fifth in the world, has decided to pack his calendar with matches.
"I'm very healthy, so why not? I'm trying to keep my style, win matches and keep diving for volleys."
Becker says he has not yet reached his potential. "I'm still far away from my possibilities," he says.
And what are those possibilities?
"I will not be disappointed if I don't win Wimbledon this year. But I want to win Wimbledon when I'm 21 and then win it eight times in a row."
Becker's transition from anonymity has had its moments. He spoke with Bjorn Borg in October. It was the second time they met, although he didn't tell Borg about the first time.
It was 1980. He was 12. With pen in hand, Becker walked up to Borg and asked him for his autograph.
It sounds so innocent. It wasn't.
"I really asked him five times," Becker said, laughing. "Then I sold four of them."
It's Becker's autograph that sells now. "I've gone from being very unknown to being pretty famous," he says. "It's interesting. I don't think anybody has learned more in less time than I have."
But Becker still is just 18. He is asked what he wants to be when he grows up. "When I grow up? When I'm old? I don't know. I haven't thought about that yet."
Kevin Curren served 11 aces and won two tie-breakers to defeat Tim Wilkison, 7-6, 7-6, yesterday in the final of the $279,000 WCT-Atlanta Championships for his first title in 14 months.
In Houston, Jimmy Arias, the No. 5 seed, upset top-seeded Mats Wilander, 6-2, 2-6, 6-1, in the 52nd annual River Oaks International. It was Arias' first tournament win since the Palermo Open in 1983.
In Marco Island, Fla., top-seeded Chris Evert Lloyd easily beat Claudia Kohde-Kilsch, 6-2, 6-4, to capture the $150,000 Chrysler-Plymouth Tournament of Champions title. In the doubles final, Martina Navratilova and Andrea Temesvari defeated Elise Burgin and Kathy Jordan, 7-5, 6-2.