When someone mentions Andrea Jaeger, the image that probably comes to mind is that of a 14-year-old with pigtails and freckles, romping on a tennis court winning matches against her elders.
Remember when young Andrea defeated Billie Jean King in a Wimbledon match?
Until fairly recently, however, Jaeger had been a resident of that netherworld known as “Whatever Happened To.”
Now 20, and with a perm instead of pigtails, Jaeger is attempting to come back from a nine-month layoff that was the result of a series of neck and shoulder injuries, frustrations and the dreaded tennis burnout.
She had reached break point -- literally.
“Even my parents didn’t understand the injuries I had there for a while,” said Jaeger, after she and Dick Stockton lost a tough 7-6, 4-6, 6-2, match to Anne White and Vince Van Patten in the Belgian Mixed Doubles at Los Colinas here Wednesday night.
“I didn’t know who to turn to. The WTA (Women’s Tennis Assn.) just wants you to play. All I knew was that I couldn’t lift my arm.
“You know, when you have a broken arm, it’s a broken arm. But when you say you have a pinched nerve in your neck, your parents just kind of look at you.
“Someone under 20 doesn’t know when to play and when not to play when you’re injured. I played injured for too long, almost a year. It’s hard to get excited about playing when you’re hurt all the time.”
So Jaeger dropped out of tennis and enrolled in junior college, where she studied zoology for a year.
Not only did she enjoy it but, because she had been playing professionally since she was a young teen-ager, it was the first time she had ever had anything close to a normal social life.
“You don’t have a social life on the tour,” Jaeger said. “You go out with friends and hang out, but they’re not really good friends. They are social acquaintances. You don’t really have any good friends on the tour.
“My sister and I are good friends, best friends. And when she had to go to school ...
“It was good to meet people -- people who weren’t tennis people. On the tour, people just want to hang around you because of tennis. I really enjoyed college and hope to go back.”
Still, Jaeger is returning for more on the tour. And she is looking forward to the day she regains the form that made her the second-youngest player (14 years, 8 months) ever to win a professional tournament.
“I’m just a very competitive person,” she said. “Whether it’s checkers or tennis, I’m very competitive.
“When you take away the tennis, it’s hard to be that way in real life. Being away from tennis did a lot of good, and it did a lot of bad.
“Sometimes it’s scary being back,” she said. “But the tour has changed a lot. And I have a friend from school who took a year off to go to some tournaments with me. You know, when you keep losing and you go back to a hotel room and you’re all alone you think there’s something wrong with you.”
So Jaeger is trying to work her way back into top form -- into the young Andrea of old.
“Those matches were a long time ago,” she said of victories past. “I have to start all over again. I practice a lot differently. Now I’m careful how much I play when before it was no big deal. Now I watch for dampness and cold weather. I have exercises to do for my neck and arm.
“My serve really isn’t that great because of not having served for so long. I barely get my serves in now, when before I never double-faulted. But I expect to be playing well by early ’86.”
You get the idea she means business.
In the second match Wednesday night, Elizabeth Smylie and John Fitzgerald defeated Bettina Bunge and Paul McNamee, 6-3, 6-4. In Thursday night’s quarterfinal matches, Anne Smith and Kevin Curren will meet Smylie and Fitzgerrald, and Chris Evert Lloyd and John Lloyd will meet Beth Herr and Bill Scanlon.