Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Andrea Jaeger Finds Life Just as Sweet after Tennis

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Andrea Jaeger Finds Life Just as Sweet after Tennis

Article excerpt

Her name was Aurelie, and at age 12, she was struggling with the fresh knowledge that she would spend the rest of her life with one leg.

She lay in her bed in a children's hospital in Paris last week, days after the cancer-induced amputation. That was when the visitor came, bearing jokes and caps and good wishes. And that was when Aurelie did the darnedest thing. She smiled.

This is a story you need to hear. In the wake of Jennifer Capriati's troubles, as you struggle to find anything worthwhile about a teenager and a tennis racket, you will be heartened to learn that, for some, things work out after all.

Hello, Andrea Jaeger, 1994. Trust me, you're going to like her a lot.

To some, Jaeger exists primarily in past tense. Half her life ago, she was a 14-year-old wonder, lobbing moonballs, one after the other, until she unraveled older players. She was the No. 2 player in the world before she could drive, and it seemed she would be around forever.

To some, Jaeger exists primarily as a symbol. Some stories written about Capriati contained some reference to Jaeger, of how tennis eats its young. Jaeger and Tracy Austin are the common exhibits for the prosecution.

The prime of Andrea Jaeger, however, exists in present tense. Now 29, she runs the Kids Stuff Foundation, which brings children with life-threatening illnesses to Aspen, Colo., to her Silver Lining Ranch to fish, camp, ride horses - enjoy their childhood while they can.

She does not own a car, she does not surround herself with the trappings of wealth; she does smile a lot.

It is a long way from a decade ago, when hitting a backhand down the line seemed to be the most important thing in the world. Yet Jaeger sounds fulfilled. There are bubbles in her voice as she talks, and every sentence sounds like a song lyric.

"These kids have made me grounded," she said. "As tennis players, we get so isolated and spoiled. I was as guilty as anyone. You got upset if the practice court was messed up, or if the transportation car didn't show up. They bring you back to reality."

In a manner, then, perhaps it was fortune that wrenched Jaeger's right shoulder and drove her from tennis. …

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