Tennis Prose



Miguel Perez Evaluates Spanish Junior Star Jose Antonio Salazar Martin

Spanish junior Jose Antonio Salazar Martin came to New Jersey/New York to compete in his first junior major event, the 2012 U.S. Open. His primary coach Ivan Medina could not make the trip, so young Martin was guided and coached at the U.S. Open by the long-time friend of his initial coach Medina, Miguel Perez, who currently resides in Wayne, N.J.

Martin qualified for the main draw in Flushing Meadows and won a match before losing a fierce struggle to the #2 junior in the world and Wimbledon finalist Liam Broady of Great Britain.

Perez, upon meeting and working with Martin for the first time last week, said his initial observations of the lad were positive. “I like his nature. He’s a fighter on the court,” Perez said. “You can’t really grasp his level when he’s practicing. You think, Oh yeah, I can take this guy when you hit with him. But he’s a grinder. It’s really tough to take a point from him in the competitive environment. I really like him, really like him a lot. Hopefully he’ll do well.”

According to Perez, who is also from the Canary Islands in Spain where Martin is from (which is about a 2.5 hour flight from the mainland), there are specific areas that Martin will need to work on to take his game to the next level. “Game-wise, he definitely he needs to work on the forehand, the volley and the serve. He’s got a lot of room to improve technically but he has a good foundation. Good fitness. A good brain for the game. Really good backhand. But he’s got a lot of room to improve, which is good.”

Perez competed in Challenger events in Spain in the 1990’s but did not have the funding to travel outside of Spain and as a result, ended up playing for NE Louisiana University. As a junior, Perez played in many national events in Spain – against the likes of Felix Mantilla in a final, Alex Corretja in doubles and Albert Costa. The biggest name player Perez played was Jonas Bjorkman in the qualies of a Challenger in Spaion in 1992. It was right before Bjorkman’s career took off. Bjorkman defeated Perez 75 76 and after the match, “the first thing Bjorkman asked me was, How many (ATP) points do you have?” Perez said he had none because he couldn’t travel. Bjorkman then replied, “Man, you should.” Bjorkman ended up winning that Challenger event and a few years later was crushing the likes of Stefan Edberg in straight sets on Louis Armstrong Stadium in a night match at the U.S. Open in 1994 or 1995.

Clearly, Miguel Perez is a qualified analyst of world class tennis talent and when asked if there was anything that surprised him about young Martin, he offered an interesting response. “The way he grinds really surprised me,” Perez said. “When he played in the qualifying rounds of the U.S. Open, the other kids were all technically superior. But he managed to beat them. The guy in the main draw (Liam Broady) was ten times more superior in his shots, technique-wise. The first three games of the match (which Martin fell to a Love-three deficit), when he was overwhelmed by the environment and surroundings, the match looked like it could be a blowout. But then Jose started playing tennis with him. It was closer than the scoreboard showed. I was watching the other kid (Broady) and he was struggling to keep up, he was screaming. He was scared. He was feeling it. I was surprised by that. I was surprised by Jose and how he handles it. He competes well out there. Every point he just goes for it. I was really glad to see that, really glad.”

I did not see the match, but other people who were there told me it was a fantastic, exciting battle to see. “It really was,” Perez added. “That kid could hit the ball. In reality, he’s the #2 junior in the world right now. Before the match I saw the You Tube clip of him playing the Wimbledon finals. I could really see that he was a heckuva player. I was expecting a blowout at the beginning. I was pleasantly surprised that it was a close match, 64 63. But it was closer than the scoreboard showed. It really was a great match.”

My final question to Miguel Perez was if there was anything else he would like to add. He shared some more interesting observations including an insight which compares Jose to the outstanding Spanish gladiator, the highly-respected ATP #5 David Ferrer. “I think it’s a good example for all juniors who might not have had the technical training or the pure raw talent that Roger Federer might have, there are so many variables in tennis besides talent and technique, than you can overcome the rest of them. David Ferrer is an example. If you see him practice, you say, No way can this guy be #5 in the world. Then when you get on the court against him, there’s no way to win any points against him. He works so hard. You can see when he practices. Every other minute he’s asking his coach, ‘Any ideas? Is everything right? What am I doing wrong?’ He’s always trying to improve.”

“Jose has that quality. Many young players reach that level and they are not receptive to comments. Jose was very receptive to any comments I made for his game. I was impressed by that.”

Jose Antonio Salazar Martin is currently ranked #1421 in the ATP and will next play Futures events to try to obtain more ATP points and a higher professional ranking. At the U.S. Open, Martin was approached with scholarship offers from several D1 schools.

We will continue to track the progress of Martin through this year and next and perhaps beyond, so stay tuned…


  • Carlos Di Palma · September 18, 2012 at 1:04 pm

    It was very enjoyable and a lot of fun to be at the courts during practices and matches for the last two weeks with Miguel and Jose. It was also very nice to see how coach-hitting partner and player developed a relationship in a very short period of time, which was of tremendous importance for Jose’s game.
    If any of your readers ever need a coach or hitting partner of a very high level, Miguel is awesome. This guy can play like a real pro and he was constantly and consistently giving Jose a run for his money during the practice sessions.
    It is a very nice interview.

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 18, 2012 at 3:32 pm

    Thanks for the insights Carlos. Having competed with Mantilla, Costa, Bjorkman and Corretja, Miguel definitely is a world class authority on tennis and that comes through in the interview. Watching him and Jose play those tiebreaks was like watching a pro match at an ATP event.



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