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Former Tennis Player Andrea Jaeger Shows Compassion to Cancer-Stricken Children

To say that her on-court demeanor was impudent would be kind. Nothing riled her like a bad call, and she let linesmen know. Some called her a brat; others, "the female Ilie Nastase."

"She was young and cocky and plucky, like a little boxer" says tennis commentator and former pro Mary Carillo, who was 23 when Jaeger burst onto the tour.

Looking back, Jaeger believes she never should have inhabited this world as a minor.

But at 14, all she wanted was to play tennis.

So when an agent came to her home to discuss turning pro, it was Andrea, then in eighth grade, who made the decision.

She remembers the adults sitting at the kitchen table, where she had watched her parents count quarters to pay for her lessons and indoor-court rentals. Andrea sat on the floor playing with Matchbox cars while her mother fretted about the rigors of international travel and her father argued that turning pro was the only way to keep their daughter challenged.

She had won age-group titles practically in her sleep and trounced top collegians. Now she was winning pro events but being forced to return prize money her family desperately needed because of her amateur status.

Back and forth they went, until Andrea blurted out: "Really, it's not a big deal. Let me just turn pro. I'm okay with it."

But she wasn't.

While she loved the travel and didn't mind the pressure, she was ill prepared for the resentment of women she supplanted in the rankings. She was a kid playing for fun; they were playing for mortgages and careers.

In her second tournament as a pro, Jaeger beat a ranked player and then watched her break down in tears and guzzle a bottle of wine in the locker room afterward to numb the humiliation.

"I never tried against her for the rest of my career," Jaeger said. "I saw what it did to her. I didn't want to be responsible."


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