When you're 18 years old, June is the time for saying goodbye to old loves and getting ready to meet new ones, for making that last summer of childhood linger as long as possible before college. But when you're 18 and Andrea Jaeger, June is the time for Wimbledon.
Once before, in 1980, Jaeger got as far as the quarterfinals. But she was always home in Chicago in time for the Fourth of July. I got sick of the fireworks," she said. "But, gosh, I never even thought I'd get to the semifinals of Wimbledon."
Thursday, while other 18-year-olds are showing their stuff at the beach, Jaeger will show hers in the semifinals of Wimbledon against Billie Jean King. (The other semifinal matches Martina Navratilova against unseeded Yvonne Vermaak.) King is 39 and will be playing in her 14th semifinal. "If I'm going to lose, I'm going to lose because she played better, not because she outpsyched me," said Jaeger, who is ranked third and seeded third.
"I think she knows I don't fall for some of her things as much as other players."
Jaeger sat at courtside watching John McEnroe, who also knows a thing or two about psych. For a moment, he glared in her direction. Hushed and wide-eyed, she said: "He scares me."
Jaeger has this problem (not the recurring injuries to her feet or her knees). She's honest and she's bright. So when people ask, she tells them that tennis isn't enough: even the day before her first Wimbledon semifinal, it isn't everything.
Jaeger would like to go to college and take pre-law courses. Undercover work intrigues her. So does the FBI. Earlier this spring, she thought this might be the time to go to college. She likes Stanford, where her sister Suzie, her closest friend, is enrolled. At Stanford, Jaeger says, people don't know who you are or what you do and "you can learn stuff."
She talked to her father Roland and Suzie, too. "My sister didn't think it would be that good for my tennis," she said. "My father didn't think it would be anything for my tennis. I said, 'Okay, I'll wait.' "
"She said she would really like to do it in the near future," Roland Jaeger said. "I said, 'Andrea, you better think closely. You're making a lot of money.' "
Jaeger earned $423,315 in 1982. "Andrea went to visit Suzie several times," her father said. "She never really saw the real part of going to classes. She thought it would be really fun." He says he would like to see her go to college. "Oh, yeah, after she's 24 or 25," he said. "If she still remembers her ABCs."
Lately, people have been telling her that it doesn't look like she's having a good time. They want to know why she isn't smiling and laughing more. It's hard, when you've been injured so much and "you're just waiting to see what happens next," she said.
"Now, it's more of a job. You have to go to practice; you have to play tournaments. Everyone is out for themselves. They don't care if you're injured or sick, they just want to beat you."
So, it's hard to be close. She didn't go home for high school graduation. "If I was there, they would have made a big deal," she said. "There's not one kid I seriously wish I had been there with. The teachers were always my best friends at school. That hurt."