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Guest Blog

Letter to the Tennis World from Andrea Jaeger Playa: (Part I)

April 07, 2016 | 03:23 PM

I recently read an article about Maria Sharapova by Kevin Mitchell in the Guardian. A writer

who finds depth in brilliant displays of opening windows for audiences in tennis and boxing to

gaze and gather at the view. Media whether covering sports, politics, war or any subject are by

and large an undervalued group. 99% of the reporters I have met or seen in action clock in

incredibly long hours, receive little pay and are passionate story tellers determined to do best by

their audiences.

Kevin's article included,

"From the day she was spirited away from the lingering death-smell of Chernobyl to eventually

embrace America as a nervous six-year-old while her father washed dishes to support them, she

never got to be the happy kid in the park. All she had then was tennis. All she has now is tennis.

And who knows for how much longer?"

"Perhaps the sharpest dig of all came from Chris Evert, who now earns her living in the ESPN

commentary box. Maria, said the one-time ice maiden of women's tennis, has no friends in the

locker room. "Her friendships are outside of the tennis world, she's isolated herself," Evert said.

"I'm not seeing a lot of support from a lot of the players."

The reporter continued, "Sharapova says her fans are still with her, showing her love. That must

be a comfort, but they are strangers, many drooling from a distance, hoping for an autograph

they can flog on eBay."

There was more. I can never be a Kevin Mitchel, but I do hope I can increase the view and the

gathering and do so from the echo of a child. I emailed a letter of support to Maria Sharapova on

March 8, 2016. Besides a few pictures and lines removed to help shorten and my personal

contact information removed, it is exactly as was written.


Hello Maria,

I wanted to provide my support to you.

I am well aware of the responsibilities of professional tennis players, the governing bodies of

professional tennis, management teams and tennis fans having turned professional myself at age

14 and becoming #2 in the world at age 16. I understand the pressures of decisions on and off

the court and how outside and inside parties can provide beneficial and detrimental guidance to

a young and naive pro athlete.

On court I represented my country in successful Federation Cup competition. I defeated Billie

Jean King in the semi-finals of Wimbledon and Chris Evert in the semi-finals of the French

Open. While on tour I watched press conferences applauding a player the same time the public

was being defrauded. Press conferences condemning a player were also not foreign to my era.

What was seen on people's television screens at home showing champions were champions of

sport but not always champions of spirit and authenticity. Sports and media have always had an

interesting partnership. Billions of dollars are exchanged in sports and media has been a big part

of contributing to bigger and terrific opportunities for all involved in sports from the amateur to

the professional level.

Once in awhile an athlete like you comes along that captivates audiences across demographics

and while spanning the globe. Tennis fans and general audiences worldwide since 2001 have

embraced your tennis abilities, branding success, international beauty and grace. You have lived

a career and life under incredible public scrutiny since a child. You have handled it with class,

dignity and care for others, characteristics that are not built into every sports champion or even


Press conferences and social media have become a vehicle for the world to become closer

allowing public figures and celebrities to connect with their fans. Governing bodies in sports are

thankfully becoming more responsible every year. Pro athletes that have navigated thru the

doping testing without a scratch despite failing to comply to standards have that on their

conscience. There are those and more that hide, lie and avoid hoping to succeed without a

discovery. All this sports insiders and outsiders and the public are well informed on.

What I hope the world of sports and the general public also knows is this:

You have been a wonderful role model, incredibly hard working and talented player and a

morally conscience person of the highest level. Society and humanity have benefited from your

over decade of contributions to tennis, sports, humanitarian causes and business ventures.

The newly added since January 2016 banned substance was a less than a month mistake that you

immediately apologized for in a national press conference. Your intention was never to hide, lie,

blame or condemn others when your positive test was revealed to you. You took responsibility,

you accept responsibility and you did more than what the public has seen in banned substance

situations far worse in pro athletes.

As you may know I have run Little Star Foundation, helping children with cancer and children

in need for 29 years. I encounter children and families on a frequent basis that take medicine for

life saving treatments and better quality of life improvements. Often medications originally for

one area of medical support can be taken in different dosages to help in other areas of health and

wellness in order to maintain a balanced internal wellness life. It never is for enhanced

improvements in sports but a better quality of life medically.

Patients and individuals per their Doctors advice stay on medications longer than normally

recommended and look into options of medications not normally prescribed for their ailments

because alternative options have been proven successful in scientific journals. There have been

drugs created for cancer that were later to be found to help Parkinson's patients. These types of

discoveries are constant in the medical field.

People respond differently due to their family history, environment and internal process system.

Someone like you is well aware of Chernobyl. Your mother could have easily passed on to you

effects from Chernobyl that no other athlete from other parts of the world ever has to think

about. Your parents lived in environments where immune systems were compromised and that

requires you to require a different navigational path in order to restore, balance and maintain

internal components involving pathologies, medical alternatives and treatment protocols.

How many people who are judging you now have had that to deal with all that while growing


It is disturbing to see and hear the lack of humanity and lack of society and medical awareness

that is going on in response to the attack on you since your press conference.

You have lived and showed your character, compassion and excellence on a daily basis and you

should not be condemned in such a manner. You deserve better.

Throughout your career you have taken the high road even when encountering situations where

you could have easily targeted or moved focus elsewhere. You even went back to your homeland

to help children never caring if people found out about your generosity or not.

The list of your tennis greatness may have been recorded on tournament fact sheets but there

isn't enough fact finders and time to find all the greatness you have done in helping and inspiring

others, in progressing the sport of tennis, in showing humanity and kindness and in bringing

hope to those who felt it with your heart. You kept your heart and spirit, soul and kindness in an

individual sport that does have ruthlessness and a sport one in which a child's soul can be

darkened and their spirit broken in a moment never again to recover.

You were a champion in life before you became a champion in tennis. One admitted mistake will

never change the champion you are in life and in tennis. After my pro tennis career, I never

imagined that Nelson Mandela would travel the globe and want to visit me and my foundation's

headquarters to thank me and congratulate me on what I had accomplished in helping children.

I was told his visit had nothing to do with my tennis success. It was about my heart and spirit in

helping children. Your heart and spirit are golden beyond any tennis trophy and any sponsorship

accolade. You will continue in greatness beyond what you have already accomplished on and off

the tennis court.

There are lots of pictures of children I can show you that would say we all still stand by you and

are your fans. Children and people worldwide will continue being your fans.

I am sending you a few puppy pictures to cheer you up. Sometimes the things we go thru can

best be survived by fans and those that will remind you they will stand by you loyally and

faithfully. If ever a person finds you that doesn't stand by you and you are hurting because of

that I hope you find one of your fans, which Playa and I and so many others are, and you can

smile and remember who you are—still and always will be-- amazing and special you.

Best to you always,

Andrea Jaeger Playa


Little Star Foundation

Part Two will appear next Monday at under the Blog (Now It's My Turn) Watch for it

Andrea Jaeger Playa

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