Some call her "the next Tracy Austin." Others tag her as "the player to watch" in the 1980s. The newest prodigy in women's tennis is a 5 ft., 11/2 in., 90-pound high school freshman with blond pigtails and braces named Andrea Jaeger. The 14 -year-old resident of a Chicago suburb made her debut this year as the youngest professional player in the Avon Championship matches currently being played across the country -- and promptly trounced some of the top veterans on the tour.
Although Andrea had strong credentials and was fairly well known (she already has been the subject of a national magazine article and gained more recognition in a losing first-round match to Austin in last year's US Open), she was forced by the Avon rules to start at the very bottom in her first tour event -- the open pre-qualifying round of an Avon Futures tourney in Las Vegas. Obviously she belonged a bit higher up the ladder, as she demonstrated by getting through both the pre-qualifying and the regular qualifying matches and going on to win the whole tournament.
Andrea had elected to remain an amateur, so she had to pass up the $3,400 winner's check, but she did earn the right to play in two regular tour events. She entered the next one, in her hometown of Chicago, and at the same time declared herself a pro. That turned out to be a good move, for a first round upset over Kathy May Teacher netted her $1,750 in that tournament, and in Seattle the following week she astounded everyone with decisive wins over Rosemary Casals (6-3, 6-1), third-seeded Wendy Turnbull (6-2, 6-2), and Sue Barker (6-1, 6-3), reaching the semifinals and warning $7,500 before bowing to Austin, the eventual winner.
Tennis observers generally consider Andrea one of the three best female teen players in the world, along with the 16-year-old Austin and 18-year-old Bettina Bunge.
"The strongest point of her game is not any of her shots but her unyielding will to win," says her father and tennis mentor, Roland Jaeger. "Her strongest feature is her mind. She doesn't want to lose. Andrea boils on the court. She's totally involved in winning."
Roland, a Swiss who moved to the United States with his wife, Ilse, from Germany in 1956, ran a business in Chicago for many years. The couple picked up tennis during that period, and in 1977 -- when Andrea had already been playing for four years -- he sold his business to become a teaching pro at am club near the Jaeger home in Lincolnshire, Ill. And nowadays, of course, thanks partly to his success teaching his daughters, promising young players from all over the Chicago area wait in line for lessons from Roland and his fellow instructors.
Andrea's confidence and fierce determination, qualities absorbed from Roland through his close coaching, have already led to criticism from opponents for poor manners on the court. Her manner softens somewhat, however, when she plays against 17-year-old sister Suzanne, a topflight player in her [Word Illegible] right who is ranked among the top ten 18-and under singles players in the country by the Women's Tennis Association. Although Andrea regularly whips opponents who beat Suzy, she has never beaten her older sister.
"She wouldn't (beat Suzy)," says Roland. "She admires her sister too much to beat her." The two girls are the closest of friends, with an apparent lack of sibling rivalry. Suzy, who is a senior in high school and hopes to attend Stanford University next fall on a tennis scholarship, plays mother to Andrea as they travel to tournaments all over the world. They say they plan to hire a private tutor to help them keep pace with their classes after missing a month of school already this year.
Although Andrea practices tennis three hours a day during the school year, and recently gave up playing soccer on the boys team at school because of the risk of injury, last year she passed up invitations to the French and Italian Opens so she could attend her eighth grade graduation ceremony.
As she racks up a list of "youngest" achievements -- youngest to turn professional, youngest to play in a regular Avon tour event, youngest to win the Orange Bowl World Junior Championship in Florida, and youngest to make it into the US Open on her own merit (without a qualifier) -- the successor to Austin as the game's youngest fireball has yet to beat Tracy herself in their two meetings.
Meanwhile, as she continues to be trumpeted as the "new wonderteen" of tennis , Andrea just says she hopes to grow a little -- "at least to 5-5".