Warde's story is especially germane because his wife, Eliza Pande, also was a junior tennis player who quit the game. They met at Stanford. Eliza, like Lori, had been a phenom. In 1969 she defeated Evert Lloyd in the finals of the U.S. Girls 16-and-under Championships. At 18 Eliza won a pro tournament and two rounds at Wimbledon. Then, while playing for the women's team in college her freshman year, she realized "there were other things besides tennis in the world. Winning was all tied into being the perfect person. I had no choices. To get a different perspective, I had to quit and almost go through a deprogramming. I always saw myself as a championship tennis player. That was my identity and I lost it."
The Wardes, who live in Palo Alto, Calif., have both returned to tennis, though on a much lower level. They play a few local tournaments each year, and Eliza is coach of the women's team at Santa Clara University. Jake works as a sales and marketing representative for a publishing company. They have a 10-month-old son, Eben. Jake has fantasized about the boy becoming a pro tennis player.
One day in August 1980, while riding on a bus to the national girls 18s in Middle-bury, Conn., Lori made her decision to quit tennis. This would be her last tournament. She was tired of living on yesterdays. Her father was waiting for her in Middlebury, and she told him what she had decided.
Still she had a tournament to play. In the second round, Lori, who was unseeded, faced one of the best players in the tournament, and a remarkable thing happened. Her game returned. It was the old Lori, the fighter with the punishing ground strokes. She cruised through the first set and led 4-2 in the second. "It was scary," she recalls. "And then I went to hit a serve and I couldn't even put my arm up. I served underhanded. I went to hit a backhand, and the ball went about a foot. It was like my muscles had gone."
After losing the second set 7-6, Lori retired at 0-2 in the third. "I walked to the sidelines and threw up in a towel," she says. "I couldn't believe it. The old Lori had come back for a time, but did I really want it, did I really want to keep on going? Or did I want to go home and be set free from all of this? To be normal? I walked off the court and said to my dad, 'Let's go.' What had happened, not being able to serve, the feeble backhand, the throwing up, proved it. I didn't want this anymore. It was over."
For nearly two years Lori barely touched a racket. Through her sophomore and junior years in high school she was an everyday kid. She went on a school trip to Washington, she attended the prom, she ran cross-country. "You've quit tennis," her father said. "What are you going to replace it with?"
"I didn't quit tennis to replace it with anything," Lori said. "I quit for me."
Last year Lori said, "I realize now there is so much more to living. I don't ever have to play again to be happy. Who cares what the rest of the world thinks? That used to be my whole life."
One afternoon in 1981 Lori walked into the living room, where her father was watching Jaeger play Bettina Bunge on TV. "I've beaten both of them," Lori announced with a smile, and then walked out of the room. Another day, Lori sat in her bedroom, the scrapbook and pictures in front of her. As she thumbed through the articles, Lori sounded like an adult recalling her youth. "Here they called me a child prodigy," she said, holding up a story. "Back then I was a chubby little girl with all the guts in the world. Here's me and Bettina at the Orange Bowl. Here's Andrea. I guess people wouldn't have written this stuff if I wasn't something." Once a junior champion, always a junior champion.
Last May—21 months after she had left tennis and nine days before Jennifer killed herself—Lori was sitting in psychology class at Ridgeway High in Memphis when it came to her. "All of a sudden, I had all the confidence in the world," she says. "I can still play. Once I wanted to die, but now I know living can be wonderful. I've proven I can live without tennis. Why fight it? My talent is tennis. Now I want a challenge."