Last week at the U.S. Clay Court Championships in Indianapolis, Andrea Jaeger, the latest pixie to sprinkle magic dust over the world of women's tennis, drew together her entire 100 pounds and once again sent the grandes dames running for cover. The brash gum-chomping, racquet-twirling high school sophomore raced impudently through the early rounds, upset Wimbledon champion Evonne Goolagong in the semis and then in the final on Saturday had Chris Evert Lloyd on the ropes before Chrissie composed herself, began hitting the lines and salvaged some dignity for the grown-ups with a 6-4, 6-3 victory.
All told, it was a week to remember in a year that belongs in a scrapbook for the precocious youngster who lives in the Chicago suburb of Lincolnshire with her parents and 18-year-old sister Susy. Just 15 this June, Andrea turned pro in January, the youngest player ever to do so. Since then she has left a trail of press clippings and humiliated opponents, including Rosie Casals, Sue Barker, Wendy Turnbull and Virginia Wade, whom Andrea knocked off en route to the quarterfinals at Wimbledon. There she was seeded 14th, the youngest seed in the history of the tournament.
She was seeded fourth at Indianapolis, and is ranked 13th in the world. Her performance last week undoubtedly will move her higher. The $15,000 she won, plus the $1,225 she received for reaching the doubles semifinals with Regina Marsikova, boosted her earnings for the season to $72,000. Counting endorsements, Jaeger may well reap more than $200,000 this year, but because the money goes into a trust fund, day to day she's as broke as any other teen-ager. "If I'm going to the movies, I have to ask my dad for some money," she says. "It's not like he's going to give me $1,000 or something to go shopping."
Roland Jaeger is not only Andrea's father but also her coach and inspiration, companion and confidant. It has been seven years since he sent her out to the garage during the winter to hit practice shots against the wall while bundled up in a coat and mittens. Now during matches he twitches perceptibly if one of her strokes lands close to the sideline. After Andrea has made a great shot, she turns her eyes to him in the stands, and he responds by raising his fists in salute. But he's demanding. On Saturday as she walked wearily from the courts at seven p.m., having finished a doubles match that followed her two-hour battle with Evert Lloyd, father and daughter argued mildly about some minor point of strategy. One of Roland's more frequent statements to those predicting stardom for Andrea used to be, "She has to prove it to me."
August 17, 1980
Her 6-4, 6-2 victory over Goolagong should have been proof enough. Although she's as securely glued to the baseline as either Evert Lloyd or Tracy Austin, and like them, hits with two hands off the backhand wing, Jaeger is a ground-stroker from a different mold. Whereas Evert Lloyd and Austin are forever pounding the ball from corner to corner, Andrea is primarily a junkballer who throws an array of spins, parabolas and an occasional drive at her opponents. It's an effective but dangerous style of play requiring patience, endurance and, most of all, speed, which is probably her greatest strength. Jaeger is a terrific scrambler, and the hotter the weather gets the more balls she seems to chase down. As Goolagong discovered, that can be very frustrating.
"I tried everything," Evonne said after their two-hour struggle in 90° heat. "But she's so fast; it's difficult to play someone who gets the ball back so fast. She played very consistently. Even when I thought I was playing well, I still couldn't get the points."
Evert Lloyd, however, is another story—for the time being, anyway. Experience is the final ingredient for a champion, and right now Jaeger is just starting to collect it. Evert Lloyd, of course, is the matriarch of clay. In 164 matches on that surface, she has lost only once.
The Evert Lloyd-Jaeger score at Indianapolis didn't reflect how hard Chrissie had to struggle to win. That in itself was progress for Jaeger, who got walloped by Evert Lloyd at Wimbledon, 6-1, 6-1. After an hour of parry and thrust in sultry Indy weather, the final was dead even, 4-4, 30—all, Evert Lloyd serving. Jaeger returned a ball that Evert Lloyd didn't even try for, because she was standing with pursed lips on the baseline, gesturing toward a mark that indicated Jaeger's previous shot had landed out. The umpire agreed, and that vital point went to Evert Lloyd. A couple of points later so did the game when an unsettled Jaeger lobbed long. Evert Lloyd broke Jaeger's serve in the next game to close out the set. "It seemed that whenever she questioned a call she got the point," said Andrea. "When it happened to me we played the point over. I got the raw deals."
The second set was all Chrissie after the first couple of games. She held serve easily, mixed up her drives with occasional drop shots that had Andrea all askew, broke her young rival in the fourth game and played out the set with a mixture of caution and abandon to win her sixth U.S. Clay Court title.
But while beating Goolagong and trading stroke for stroke with Evert Lloyd for a time were exemplary performances, Jaeger may have played her best tennis early in the week. In her first three matches she lost only five games, taking just 38 minutes to rout her first-round opponent, Ann Henricksson. After a 6-1, 6-1 quarterfinal win over Mary Lou Piatek, it was pointed out to Jaeger that her next opponent would be Goolagong.
"I don't want to insult her, but I was 13 when I first read her name," Andrea replied blithely. "Just because she won Wimbledon won't make me play any different."
No one will ever accuse Andrea of excessive reverence for her elders, which is both refreshing and part of the reason why she performs so well against them. Unlike most tennis prodigies, she can utter a complete sentence at a press conference—and sometimes even two or three at a time—without having to look to a coach or agent for clearance. "She's good stuff," says Wade. "Spunky, good personality and confident without being cocky."
Andrea will also never be accused of putting in too many hours on the practice court. The day of her match with Evert Lloyd, she spent the morning watching cartoons on television. Earlier in the week, an hour and a half before a match, she was riding her minibike, a collapsible contraption that doesn't have nearly the power of the motorcycle she really wants, when a dog darted in front of her. Jaeger crashed, skinning her knees and hip and banging up her left shoulder. Prudently, she didn't mention the mishap to her father until after she had destroyed her second-round opponent, Anne Smith, 6-1, 6-1. With Kathy Jordan, Smith had won Wimbledon doubles. "It was the best I ever had seen Andrea play," said Roland, who beamed even more when his daughter told him she ached all over. "I was so thrilled and so happy because that just proves she's tough all the way around, not just on the court."
When Andrea isn't avoiding pooches on her minibike, she is playing baseball or kicking a soccer ball. Duke Uihlein, a 13-year-old friend from home, ruefully admits she can bounce a soccer ball off her knee longer than he can, although he explains her dominance thusly: "She practices. I don't. Besides, she has so much energy it's hard to keep up with her." Jaeger is also doing a pretty good job of combining high school with a pro tennis career that has become so involved she now has a Mark McCormack accountant/business manager to handle exhibitions and endorsements. She missed 60 days of school last year, and although she no longer makes straight A's, her average hasn't fallen below B.
Naturally, the player with whom Jaeger is most often compared is Austin. So far in her brief career Andrea is winless in three attempts against Tracy and she has never played Martina Navratilova, the top two in the world. Neither played at Indianapolis. Right now Jaeger is at least even with, or perhaps a step or two ahead of, Austin at a comparable age, but it should be pointed out that Tracy, who is now 17, had quite a 16th year, winning the U.S. Open, seven tour events and almost $500,000.
Says Evert Lloyd, who won her first pro tournament at 16, "Andrea is a better player at 15 than I was. She's going to grow.... Heck, she doesn't even have a figure yet."
Perhaps, but what a set of wheels.