MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA, JAN. 27 (SUNDAY) -- Boris Becker, overcoming a dismal start, rapped out a four-set victory over Ivan Lendl for the Australian Open men's singles title and the No. 1 ranking in the world.

Becker's 1-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 victory in just over three hours should move him past Stefan Edberg, who lost to Lendl in the semifinals here, in the world computer rankings.

In his five previous appearances in the Australian Open, Becker hadn't made it past the quarterfinals.

Third-seeded Lendl got off to a sizzling start, winning the first five games.

Becker, who spent much of the first set yelling at himself and slapping his thigh as he fell behind, was much calmer in the second set, which he won with a 10th-game service break.

The German won the third set by breaking Lendl's serve after Lendl had saved five set points and broke in the prior game.

Lendl, who was bidding for a third straight Australian Open title, served with clinical precision and hit a succession of winners from the back of the court in the opening set, but Becker then became much more aggressive.

Becker, the No. 2 seed, twice was treated for an apparent injury to his lower back during changeovers in the second set, but his mobility didn't appear to be greatly affected.

While Becker's victory should have an immediate impact in the rankings, Monica Seles' women's title may serve more as a herald of changes to come.

All legs and arms, grunts and giggles, Seles is still growing, learning and changing her game.

She's 17, owner of two Grand Slam titles, and she's just beginning to find out what she can do with all her talent -- screaming, double-fisted ground strokes, mental intensity, physical stamina.

She beat Jana Novotna, 5-7, 6-3, 6-1, Saturday to become the youngest Australian Open women's champion. On the hot, hard center court at the National Tennis Center, she proved she's more than the clay court clouter she was dubbed after capturing the French Open title last year. Seles showed she has the quickness and athletic ability to win anywhere.

At 5 feet 9 -- four inches taller than a year ago and still shooting up -- Seles has the potential to be a threat at the net and add a dimension to her game. She didn't charge in behind her serve in this tournament, but picked her spots, moved in and volleyed superbly.

Her strength is deceptive, considering her slender body and pipestem limbs. She stuffs herself with spinach, piles on the pasta, gulps down shakes, but can't push the scale past 118 pounds. As she matures over the next few years, the power of her serve likely will increase and she'll probably develop greater control on all her shots.

"I'm excited, no question," she said. "But I know there are things I have to work on. I can get a lot better. I have to."

Seles, four months younger than Margaret Court was when she won the Australian in 1960, is within reach of the No. 1 ranking Steffi Graf grabbed at 18 in 1987 and has held for 180 consecutive weeks. The youngest No. 1 since the start of the Virginia Slims tour was Tracy Austin, who took over the top spot for 4 1/2 months in 1980 at 17 years 2 months, the same age Seles is now. Seles won't beat that, but could catch Graf at the French Open.

Seles played doubles here to work on her serve-and-volley game, even though that didn't allow her much rest, and she's planning to play doubles at every other tournament.

"I just have to do it," she said.