Four years ago, when Andrea Jaeger lost her second-round match in the U.S. Open, she walked off the grandstand court at the National Tennis Center and burst into tears.
Today, she lost on the same court in the same round. This time, she didn't cry until she reached the locker room.
Four years ago, she was the No. 2 player in the world and her loss to unseeded Andrea Leand was a stunner. Today, she has no computer ranking and her 3-6, 6-2, 6-1 loss to Kathy Jordan hardly was a shock.
Jaeger is a has-been of sorts now, one of the two most celebrated burnout cases in women's tennis -- the other being that of the still-sidelined Tracy Austin. After defaulting in midmatch at the 1984 French Open, Jaeger left the tour for nine months to try to recover from assorted injuries, and this is just her fifth tournament since her return.
When she left the tour -- she studied at a Florida junior college while she was away -- other players said Jaeger was sick of tennis and often didn't try hard in matches.
Today, she tried and she played decently, but her erratic on-court behavior made it apparent she still has a long way to go emotionally.
For Jaeger, defeat is hard to take. Thirty minutes after she walked off the court, she was able to talk calmly about the perils of trying to make a comeback at 20. But during the match she was, to use her word, "hyper."
She conducted a running monologue with herself throughout the match. She yelled at women's tour referee Lee Jackson when she walked into the match. "Why did you have to show up?" she screamed at Jackson, with whom she had a major blowup two weeks ago in New Jersey.
"I'm still letting things get to me too much on the court," she admitted. "I mean, for a while I was noticing what airline the planes flying overhead were more than her serve. I'm getting better, though, I think."
Jordan averted the upset by taking control of the net in the last two sets and joined a host of seeded players in advancing to the third round. John McEnroe and Boris Becker, apparently heading for a quarterfinals showdown, each won in three easy sets and then were bombarded with questions about each other.
Tenth-seeded Joakim Nystrom, who is the only real roadblock between the McEnroe-Becker meeting, also won, but he struggled. Nystrom beat Bob Green, a Russian literature major at Boston University, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-0, winning the last nine games as Green wore down in the face of Nystrom's slashing ground strokes.
Other impressive winners were third-seeded Mats Wilander, No. 6 Anders Jarryd and 22-year-old Greg Holmes, who pulled off the one upset of the day, beating 12th-seeded Johan Kriek, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-1.
The women had a quiet afternoon. Third-seeded Hana Mandlikova knocked out Englishwoman Annabel Croft, 6-3, 6-3. No. 5 Claudia Kohde-Kilsch and No. 7 Helena Sukova won in straight sets, and No. 14 Bonnie Gadusek defeated Mima Jausovec.
The only semi-upset came when Terry Phelps defeated Barbara Potter, 7-5, 5-7, 6-3, fulfilling Potter's prediction that she would have a much tougher time with Phelps today than she had with 10th-seeded Gabriela Sabatini Wednesday night.
The least happy winner of the long day may have been Chris Evert Lloyd. Evert was scheduled to play tonight at almost the same time as her husband John despite the fact that she routinely requests that tournament officials try to schedule them at different times.
While Evert came away with an easy, 6-0, 6-3 victory on the Stadium Court over Raffaela Reggi, Lloyd lost, 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 (7-3), 7-5 to 13th-seeded Tim Mayotte.
"I guess it was just too tough for them to schedule one of us at night and the other in the afternoon," Evert said, sarcasm in her voice. "When I heard the schedule, I went and asked about it but I guess they were under a lot of pressure from (cable) TV. It's very disappointing. I really don't want to make a big issue of it, though."
Evert's irritation was mild compared with Jaeger's this afternoon.
It was Gadusek who defeated Jaeger in the second round of the French Open this year, defeating her, 6-1, 6-1, and -- again -- sending her from the court in tears.
Today, Jaeger's tennis was much better than it was in Paris. Her ground strokes were much more solid. She still isn't as quick as she used to be, but her body isn't what it used to be -- she is chunky now, weighing about 25 pounds more than the 5-2 1/2, 100 pounds she is listed as in the tour media guide.
There were moments when she flashed the form that made her No. 2 in the world at age 16, zapping passing shots past Jordan. But against Jordan's aggressiveness she simply couldn't make the rallies last long enough to take control.
"I just couldn't get a rhythm because she serves and volleys so much that there aren't any rallies," Jaeger said. "I'm a lot better than I was at the French, though. I don't think Bonnie would beat me one-and-one now . . . "
Jaeger constantly denies she is a burnout victim. She says she simply had a lot of injuries and that being injured frustrated her.
"I get so tired of people asking me every single day if I was burned out," she said. "It's frustrating. People ask why aren't you playing, or you get on a plane and someone asks you why you haven't played for three years and you try to explain that you have played and you weren't burned out. People just don't understand."
On the court, Jaeger still appears troubled. Her outburst at Jackson today was not atypical. When she walked off court and a USTA official asked her to come to the interview room, she said, "When I won yesterday, you didn't want me. Now that I lost, everyone wants to talk to me."
With that, she stalked to the locker room. There, two female reporters and a WTA official talked her into coming back. She not only came back but sat and talked patiently for 45 minutes, first in the formal interview, then in a hallway while icing her shoulder.
"I'm not exactly sure what she's going through," said Jordan, who missed a couple of months with an injury last year. "I know coming back when you haven't been playing is hard. I'm really not sure what Andrea is doing. She has other interests now, and I just don't know what she wants from tennis."
Apparently, neither does Jaeger. On the one hand, she talks about knowing how hard it is to come back, she speculates about the difficulties Austin will have after a long layoff and she says she enjoys tennis. On the other hand, she looks miserable on the court, seems constantly on the verge of tears and mystifies the other players with her Jekyll-Hyde moods.
"I go through phases," she conceded. "One day, things don't bother me; the next day, they do. Right now, when I'm playing, the other players just play the big points better than I do, and that makes sense because I've been away. Somedays, if they put a trampoline out there I'd probably bounce right out of the place. I know I ha e to hold back my feelings, but sometimes I just can't."
Today, she didn't.