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Down the lane rabbits, roosters, ducks and other Kleintierzuchtvereine nibble away in the breeding pens in preparation for the livestock show—or somebody's dinner table. Overhead, mini cable cars crawl along, carrying cement to Heidelberg and back again. Plop-plop go the tennis balls all around. Church bells ring, are you listening? Soft rain falls on the clay. The more things stay the same in Leimen, the more they change.
Oh, little Boris Becker can still be found at the Blau-Weiss Club in the leafy northwest corner of Baden in West Germany. Sometimes he's across the road at the tennis training center. Pictures at both sites chronicle his flight through pubescence. The indoor facility under construction at Blau-Weiss will be called the Boris Becker Tennishalle.
When it is clear and still, the way it always seems to be in this sleepy community of 17,000, one can almost hear the long-ago echo of his coach's commands. "Werf dich, Boris. Werf dich." That would be Boris Breskvar ordering young Becker to fall or lunge or dive onto the burnished dirt courts, to do whatever it took to search out the shot and send it back, thereby demoralizing the opponent and stirring waves of frenzy through the crowd. Breskvar taught Becker this play—the fall and roll, Breskvar calls it—much as a D.I. might interpret the art of parachuting for a recruit. And the kid simply ate it up. Werf dich. Lunge, Boris. Hit the shot. Boom. Hit the dirt. Boom. Little Boom Boom, filthy at last.
Why, all the folks at Blau-Weiss so loved Becker crashing to the ground that they blew up a picture of him doing just that and turned it into an enormous billboard. It sticks out like a satellite dish over the showcase court. Whenever a player looks up for a lob, he must somehow pick out the ball from the gigantic form of Boom Boom Becker. So you see, little Boris is still in Leimen and ever will be back to the future—no matter how many Wimbledons he wins or Davis Cup ties he dominates or legends he creates. "Schollenverbunden," the Germans say. Bound to his native soil.
Of course, he is and he isn't. The family Becker goes back centuries in Leimen. But in 1985, a year in which he has yet to turn 18, he has been in Leimen less than five days. Even his family concedes his home is now Monte (tax-free) Carlo, where he established residency last summer, or anywhere he hangs his Tyrolean hat among the unending progression of hotels, condos and phantasmagoric spas between Leimen and immortality.
Karl-Heinz Becker, the father, an architect who designed Blau-Weiss, has come to accept Boris's peregrinations. However, the mother, Elvira, can't. "She suffers still," says Herr Becker. "This is the tragic part—to lose a son at 17. But I tell her some boys find a girl and go off forever. Boris just found tennis."
Last weekend in Hamburg—just six hours from Leimen up the Autobahn as the maniac Germans drive—Becker manufactured yet another drama in this magical summer by leading his country to a 3-2 win over the U.S. in the quarterfinals of the Davis Cup. And as Becker discovered—poor thing, he hasn't got a steady yet—every girl in West Germany seemed to have found him except the one who mistakenly put a note under the hotel door of a U.S. photographer. "I want your tongue to meet mine," she wrote.
Alas, Becker had little time for mundane romance—or even family affairs. Sabine Becker, 21, had interrupted her architectural studies in Karlsruhe to join her parents and brother in Hamburg. But no sooner would the Beckers settle down to a quiet moment together than the Baby Boomer would be tugged away for a team meeting, a practice session or a celeb opportunity.
"He could run for president, right?" Eliot Teltscher of the U.S. team asked Andreas Maurer, Becker's doubles partner, at the draw.
"Much bigger," replied Maurer.