Edmonton Journal

Jaeger talks of tank­ing matches

- A F T O N , VA Sports · Tennis · BDSM · Martina Navratilova · United States of America · Pam Shriver

An­drea Jaeger won 260 matches in her brief and me­te­oric ten­nis ca­reer. The to­tal would’ve been con­sid­er­ably higher if she hadn’t tanked more than a dozen high­pro­file matches, in­clud­ing the 1983 Wim­ble­don fi­nal against Martina Navratilov­a and the U.S. Open quar­ter-fi­nals against Pam Shriver later that sum­mer.

“As a ten­nis pro­fes­sional, it’s not some­thing I am proud of, as peo­ple paid money to watch some­one per­form their best,” Jaeger says. “(But) there were times that I could not give my best be­cause it caused a dishar­mony in me to do so. I gave my best, but not at the cost of hard­en­ing my heart, or griev­ing my soul or wound­ing my spirit.”

Jaeger vac­il­lated be­tween fe­ro­cious com­pet­i­tive­ness and al­most com­plete soft-heart­ed­ness. The longer she was on tour, the more she re­al­ized she not only did not have a killer in­stinct, she had pro­found am­biva­lence about win­ning.

“Can’t we all just tie at the end?” she would of­ten think.

In the sec­ond tour­na­ment of her pro ca­reer, she beat vet­eran Wendy Turn­bull, who was so dis­traught over los­ing to a 14-year-old that she drank a bot­tle of wine af­ter­ward. Jaeger made up for it by los­ing to Turn­bull vir­tu­ally ev­ery time they played there­after.

Usu­ally Jaeger tried to be sub­tle about her tank­ing, putting the ball on a player’s racket so she could hit a win­ner. If she had to, though, she would dump serves into the net, or hit long.

“It was trau­matic for me to beat a player and go into the lock­er­room and see her cry­ing or all up­set,” Jaeger says. “I was mor­ti­fied I caused some­one to drink be­cause of my ten­nis tal­ents.”

Some­times Jaeger would not try her hard­est be­cause she knew how much more it meant to her op­po­nent to win. Other times it was be­cause some­one had been kind to her, as hap­pened when Sylvia Hanika gave her a cou­ple of dolls be­fore they met in the French Open. And then there were in­stances when it just felt wrong.

Suzanne Jaeger, An­drea’s older sis­ter, played brief ly on the tour. She rec­og­nized this be­hav­iour from her sis­ter. An­drea was a far more ac­com­plished player, but would never beat Suzanne when they played.

“She has just al­ways had this nat­u­ral com­pas­sion,” Suzanne Jaeger says. “Rather than top­ping peo­ple, she’d rather be help­ing them. That’s al­ways been inside her.”

In the Open, Jaeger could’ve be­come No. 1 in the world if she had got­ten by Shriver. She did not want to be No. 1.

“I did my best ac­cord­ing to my val­ues and morals,” Jaeger says. “I did my best ac­cord­ing to what I be­lieve to this day that God does ap­prove of: ‘Be true to who you are in the per­son I have moulded you to be.’ ”

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