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THE RETURN OF ANDREA : Jaeger Gets Back Into Tennis, but That's Not All There Is to Her Life Anymore

April 25, 1985|MARC APPLEMAN | Times Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO — Andrea Jaeger's life used to be dominated by tennis. That was during her youth. She's grown up now. She's 19.

"When I was young, I got up, practiced, played a match, and went to sleep," she said. "If I played eight hours a day, I figured I'd get better."

She got very good very fast. Jaeger was the third-ranked woman player in the world in 1982 and '83, but she suffered a rotator cuff injury in her right shoulder last August. It led her to believe that her career might be over.

It isn't, since she is playing this week, for the first time in eight months in a singles tournament, in the Virginia Slims of San Diego tournament. Jaeger beat Barbara Gerken in the first round, 6-2, 6-3, Tuesday, but lost to Melissa Gurney, 6-0, 6-1, in the second Wednesday.

Jaeger, who has a sweet smile, an infectious laugh and an "Annie" perm, also has been doing other things here this week. She has been seeing friends, going to the movies and planning a return visit to the San Diego Zoo.

"I'm a more well-rounded person than I was four years ago, three years ago, or even a year ago," she said.

What a year it has been off the court for Jaeger, a child star who finally had a chance to live the normal life of a teen-ager while she was sidelined with her injury.

In August, the injury made it difficult for her even to write. It forced her to default, after just one match, a berth on the United States Olympic tennis team.

"I didn't think I'd play for at least a year, and I felt that sitting around and going to doctors wouldn't be great," she said.

Jaeger had a reputation for being a spoiled child who had won too many matches during her early teen years and who questioned too many calls.

"When I was playing, I heard stories about me that I didn't even know were going on," she said.

When she knew she wouldn't play for a while, if ever, she didn't brood, though, or sit around feeling sorry for herself. She decided to enroll in college, something she had wanted to do since her 23-year-old sister, Susy, went to Stanford five years ago.

Being a lover of animals, Jaeger enrolled in Santa Fe Community College in Gainesville, Fla., to study zoology.

Her dream of working with dolphins and killer whales moved closer to reality. Jaeger, a straight-A student in high school, was able to attend class on a regular basis for the first time since her freshman year in high school.

It wasn't until late December that Jaeger hit a tennis ball again. Her life was dominated by school and her learning to socialize with people her own age. It was strange at first.

"I went through four years in high school, and I don't know any of the students I went to school with," she said. "However, I became good friends with the teachers, and still keep in touch with them."

That was the start of a pattern. Jaeger, who turned professional at 14 and was the youngest player ever to be seeded at Wimbledon, was more comfortable dealing with adults.

"I guess I've never really had an age," she said. "When I was 14 or 15, I started hanging around with people 15 years older. My friends on the tour were my teachers' age. I used to spend a lot of time with Wendy (Turnbull) and Chris (Evert Lloyd), and I traveled with my dad."

When she started college, the tour veteran of 19 was suddenly a rookie.

"At first, I would go back to my apartment right after class and study," Jaeger said. "Then I found out I was studying stuff I didn't even have to. Finally, I got into a system where I'd stay up all night and study."

It also took time for Jaeger to make friends.

"On the tour, people will like you if you do well," Jaeger said. "They won't if you don't do well."

It's understandable that Jaeger was wary of leaping into friendships.

"One girl went around and told people I was a bitch before she even met me," Jaeger said. "You can't win with those people."

There were also students who she considered immature. They were envious and jealous of her success, and their life styles did not mesh with hers.

"Maybe I'm square but I don't do drugs, don't drink or mess around," Jaeger said. "And I don't think I've grown up to be that bad a person.

"A lot of the guys at school just wanted to get drunk every night. You don't go out with a girl when you're drunk. I was used to traveling around and being in charge of my life, and here were guys who couldn't find their apartment."

But Jaeger was confident enough in herself, and slowly began to make friends, the type who wouldn't judge her harshly for driving a Mercedes.

Sue Crandall, another freshman, knew nothing about tennis when she and Jaeger met. They became best friends.

"When I first met her in our apartment complex, I asked her if she was just out of high school," Crandall said. "She said, 'No, I'm just taking time off from tennis.'

"Who she was didn't connect. I told her I played basketball in high school."

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