Page 4 of 5   <       >

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

So she ran -- a bra stuffed in one pocket, her wallet in another -- and started banging on the doors of other players' rented flats until one finally opened.

"He was chasing after me," Jaeger recalls, "and I just didn't feel like getting hit on that day."

As Jaeger tells it, she ended up at the door of Navratilova's flat in obvious distress, begging to use the phone to call a taxi. Navratilova's trainer let her, but Navratilova never rose from her chair, instead flashing a look of irritation that her preparation had been interrupted.

Navratilova has declined to comment on Jaeger's account and did so again, through a spokesman, for this story.

The morning of the final, Jaeger didn't warm up, thinking a slow start would boost Navratilova's confidence and make the match look more authentic. But after losing the first set at love she tried harder in the second, worried that TV broadcasters wouldn't have enough time to air commercials.

Navartilova won, 6-0, 6-3. And in Jaeger's mind, that was the only way to right the wrong she had committed in disturbing her the day before.

"If tennis was that important that she couldn't turn around and help a kid that was in trouble -- not to even give them a hug and say: 'Don't worry about tomorrow. Are you all right?' -- if that's how much tennis meant to her, then, 'Here, have it!' " Jaeger says today.

It wasn't the first time Jaeger's beliefs were at odds with her peers.

She said she was rebuked by a tour official for visiting a high school in suburban New York at age 15 to talk to its student council about a rash of suicides. The publicity she received for trying to help, she was told, made the other players look bad.

So she continued without fanfare, visiting terminally ill children in hospitals between matches to hand out toys bought with her prize money.

And when she blew out her shoulder during the 1985 French Open with a pop as loud as a bullet, Jaeger saw God's hand at work. The injury was a blessing, she decided, seven surgeries later -- God's way of telling her she had accomplished enough in tennis.

Another calling awaited.

<             4        >

© 2009 The Washington Post Company