Boris Becker was lying on the training table yesterday afternoon, getting treatment on various thighs and elbows when the door to the trailer swung open and Jimmy Arias, drenched in sweat, walked in.

"He had a set point on you, no?" Becker said, acting as if he and Arias had been conversing for an hour.

"Yeah, and he bombed a serve to my forehand."

"Forehand?" Becker said, incredulous. "On set point he served to your forehand? Why did he do that?"

Arias explained that his opponent, Simon Youl, had been playing strictly to his backhand and was undoubtedly trying to fool him. The tactic hadn't worked. "After that, you killed him, right?" Becker continued. Arias nodded. "Score?" And so on. Arias undoubtedly has it easier in postmatch interviews.

Questions. Always it seems Boris Becker is asking questions. He had watched Arias' match with one eye while practicing with Brad Gilbert on a nearby court. Every so often, Becker would look up at his manager/coach/guru Ion Tiriac and ask the score on the next court. When Tiriac arrived a few minutes after Becker had stretched out on the training table, Becker's head snapped up.

"What's Lendl doing?"

"Lost the first set."

"No way."

Always, questions and, often, he doesn't believe the answers.

"I am a very curious person," Becker, who dispatched John Ross, 6-4, 6-2, said later in the day. "I like to ask questions. But just because someone tells me something doesn't mean I believe it. I have to find out for myself before I'm 100 percent sure. But I always want to know more things. I am still learning. After all I'm only 19.

"I like to read a lot, not just sports but politics, too. I am reading all about the {Iran-contra} hearings they are having here. I don't know who is right or wrong, but it seems like they are manipulating the whole world."

He paused, his wide blue eyes sparkling. "My father is a politician, but I could never be one. I don't like to compromise and that's basically what you have to do in politics. If I have an idea, I want to do it and follow it through. I don't want to have to make all the other people happy to get done what I think is right."

Not exactly the musings of your average teen-ager. But there is nothing average about Becker. He is more than just a brilliant player, endowed at 6 feet 3 and 190 pounds with remarkable power and physical maturity. He is a bright, strong-headed, strong-willed young man who sometimes drives Tiriac to distraction with his questions, and yet seems to emerge -- even from his defeats -- better than before.

Take, for example, Wimbledon.

"I never expected to lose the second round there," he said. "I was very happy with the way I played in the French Open {reaching the semifinals} because I was beating players I hadn't beaten before on clay. Then I went to Queens and had a good tournament there. I came from behind to beat Jimmy {Connors} in the final and I went to Wimbledon thinking everything was right.

"Then, all of a sudden, everything was wrong. I mean, the guy played out of his head. But it wasn't really me out there on the court. I was trying to be a person that I wasn't. For months, I had been listening to what all sorts of people said about me or said I should be doing. That was wrong.

"The best thing about my tennis has always been my intuition. I lost that. I wasn't doing things by intuition on the court anymore. I was lost out there."

Becker went home, not to his glamorous digs in Monte Carlo, but to his parents' home in Leimen, West Germany. He watched the Wimbledon final on television -- "that was the moment that hurt the most, when Pat {Cash} won match point," he said -- and did some serious thinking.A Parting of Ways

It had been a tough year for him. In Australia, he had been upset in the fourth round by Wally Masur and, very much out of character, had behaved boorishly during the match. He had been booed for that and, when he and longtime coach Gunther Bosch split soon after, he was criticized back home in Germany.

"The things they said about me really hurt," he said. "They were saying I didn't care about my country anymore, that I wasn't proud to be a German. Those things were just completely stupid. Bosch was almost made into a god. I think a lot of people forgot who was on the court."

With Bosch gone, every time he lost a match he was asked if he needed a coach. Or if perhaps he was distracted by his girlfriend, 23-year-old Benedict Courtin.

"I cannot understand these people," Becker said. "I am only doing what is normal for someone my age and they act like it is wrong. Ever since I won Wimbledon in '85, people don't want me to be human. But I am human. If I wasn't, I wouldn't have lost control in Australia and I could say for sure it will never happen again. I don't think it will, but who knows for sure?

"But if I lose, people are very upset. Do I need a coach? What do you think Tiriac is to me? He is much more than a coach, but he is that, too. I try to tell people when I lose that what happened was that I lost a tennis match. That's all. It's not the end of the world. I didn't lose my mother or father."

Becker was frustrated during the spring, hearing and reading what was being said about him, especially back home where he had been such a hero after his first Wimbledon victory. Tiriac, who is as wise to the ways of the world as Becker is innocent, told him not to worry about what he could not control.

"You must go ahead and realize you still have your own personality, your own career and your own life," he told Becker.

Becker says he understands now. "I play tennis to win," he said, "not so somebody will like me."

His first chance to think about such things, ironically, came after the stunning second-round loss at Wimbledon to Peter Doohan. Suddenly, Becker had 10 free days to go home and relax.

"When I went home to Leimen, it was like going back to my roots. No glamor or anything. I was like any other 19-year-old boy again. I practiced at the courts where I grew up with my old friends and my old court. I took things very easy and I had a chance to think about things.

"I realized that I had to do what I thought was right on the court, no matter what anybody said. I had to go back to being myself and not worry about what was going on outside the court. Intuition again. I had to get back to that."

He certainly seemed to do that last weekend in Hartford when he won two classic five-set matches, first beating a rejuvenated John McEnroe in a near-seven hour epic, then hanging on to beat Tim Mayotte in the deciding fifth match.

"Those two matches were very important for me because of what has happened this year," Becker said. "I think they were so important I won't even know for another six months how important they were. I was playing under very tough circumstances and I kept my head. There was lots of pressure and I reacted well to it."

A lot of the pressure came from McEnroe, who was his old fighting, yelling, screaming -- and ingenius -- self. He and Becker exchanged heated words during their match, angering Becker. Two days later, in a calmer moment, McEnroe tried to explain why playing Becker made him so uptight.

"He has the feel of a champion," McEnroe said. "You have a sense that he doesn't really respect you the way you think he should. I'm sure that Bjorn {Borg} and Jimmy {Connors} felt the same way about me when I was coming up. It's the kind of thing that ticks you off. Players like him only come along about once every 10 years."

Hearing McEnroe's comments yesterday, Becker nodded. "I understand what he means," he said. "A lot of times he and I get along very well. In Italy this year we talked a lot. The only time we have trouble is when we play. Then, on the court and for a few days after, it's not very good."

Perhaps Becker and McEnroe feud because they are so similar, both so intense about winning. "Sure, that's part of it," Becker said. "But we are the same and not the same. He loses control all the time. Sometimes I wonder if he does it on purpose or not. I have only lost control once."

There is another McEnroe-Becker similarity: both love to play Davis Cup. "Ever since I first started playing tennis I wanted to play Davis Cup," Becker said. "I like the idea of being part of a team, of having five or 10 guys who, for a week, all they're thinking about is finding a way to get those three points. It's a lot of fun."

That may be what Becker has done best these last two years: manage to have fun. Tiriac, who shelters him, deserves part of the credit. But Becker is Becker because of what he is, a remarkably bright, inquisitive young man. He can be funny one minute, introspective the next -- all in his second language.

"I like speaking English," he said. "I learned it listening to the things McEnroe and Connors call me on the court. Actually, I always liked it. I like the accent, I like learning to express myself in different ways. I even like using bad words more in English. Somehow they don't sound as bad as when I say them in German, probably because I don't understand them quite as well."

Becker clearly seems comfortable with himself, understanding that all the fame and money don't guarantee happiness. "Life doesn't begin until you are 30 or 35," he said. "When I am 45 I don't want people to only say about me that I was the youngest person to win Wimbledon. I want to do more than that. Maybe, I could be a musician. I can't sing, but you don't have to be able to sing to make beautiful music, eh?"

He winked. The last comment had been directed at Connors, who had just walked into the trailer. Connors broke up and listened as Becker kept talking. "I've always been a competitor, even in school when I was little and swimming, I liked to compete. I think I get that from my father. I've always been that way.

"That's what people don't understand about me. If there was no money or fame in playing tennis, I would play, anyway."

He was sitting up now. Trainer Todd Snyder was finished with him. "Boris," Snyder said, "you could have been a great football player."

Becker smiled. "I like football," he said. "I think maybe my bones are too soft to play it, though."

Snyder shook his head. "No way," he said. "You would have been a great tight end."

"Tight end?" Becker said. "Why tight end? Why not quarterback?"

The questions began yet again.