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WILL SHE BE A SMASH?
Franz Lidz
February 12, 1990
Next month 13-year-old Jennifer Capriati will begin her quest to become the latest in the line of U.S. women tennis champions
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February 12, 1990

Will She Be A Smash?

Next month 13-year-old Jennifer Capriati will begin her quest to become the latest in the line of U.S. women tennis champions

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"Why?"

"What if your principal reads it?"

"Don't worry. He doesn't read."

"Everyone reads!"

"O.K.," she says with 13-year-old insouciance. "I like school. I really like it."

"She's straight-A student!" says Stefano. "She makes science project about topspin! She reads books!" Jennifer mentions the classics: Danielle Steel's Loving, Danielle Steel's Daddy, Danielle Steel's Zoya. "I finished Secrets in 24 hours," she says. Another junior record—she read Secrets at least 12 hours faster than Steel wrote it.

"Most people think I'm just mixed up and can't deal with life," says Jaeger. "They're all wrong. I'm happy with myself, and when you're happy with yourself, trouble can't affect you."

Except perhaps when trouble rear-ends you. In November 1988, Jaeger was sitting at a red light in her Volkswagen in Florida when another vehicle hit her from behind. She suffered whiplash and fractured two vertebrae.

Jaeger lives off her tennis winnings—a tidy $1,379,066, 17th alltime—in Aspen, where she's recovering from a second shoulder operation to correct an old playing injury. She can't raise her right hand above her head. "I'm basically lefthanded now," she says. "Sports are out. I'm only 24, and it's no fun."

Before the crash, Jaeger, who won her first pro tournament at 14 and reached the finals of Wimbledon three years later, in 1983, had been contemplating a comeback. Her brilliant career was hampered by chronic injuries, physical and psychic. Her play became so listless and erratic that she was accused of sometimes just going through the motions. Yet she insists that injuries, not burnout, finally did her in five years ago. "It's hard to get excited about playing when you're hurt all the time," she says. "You keep losing and go back to the hotel and you're all alone and think there's something wrong with you."

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