Jaeger talks of tanking matches
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.’ ”