First & Last Pro Matches: Jeff Salzenstein (NEW FEATURE)

By Scoop Malinowski

Last week an idea popped into my head…asking retired professional tennis players for their memories of the very first and last professional matches. This beginning & end concept has never been tried before. The experiment begins with Jeff Salzenstein, who won a set at the US Open against Michael Chang and from Thomas Muster at Canadian Open in 1997. Salzy also beat Fernando Verdasco at US Open qualies.

First & Last Pro Matches: Jeff Salzenstein…

FIRST PRO MATCH: “It was July 2006 at a Mexican Satellite. I had just graduated from Stanford University with a degree in economics. I was top five in the country in college. I was no. 1 singles. We had just won a national title. I was ready to embark on the ATP Tour. I went down to a Satellite – we didn’t have Futures back then – a Satellite down in Mexico. And I was playing in Puebla, Mexico, hard court, 7,500 feet, pressureless balls. I don’t think I ever played with pressureless balls before. I was playing a gentleman from Guatemala, who stood about five-foot-six. Very short, stocky, ranked about 700 in the world. And he absolutely cut me to pieces. He destroyed me.”

“I lost 4 and 2. And I came off the court shell-shocked…Oh my gosh, I was no. 1 at Stanford, I was an All-American, I was a national champion. And here I am losing to this little Guatemalan who was 700 in the world. How in the heck am I going to make it on the Tour? That was my first experience on the pro tour. I was 22.”

FINAL PRO MATCH: “2007, US Clay Courts, I was playing qualifying in Houston (age 33, ranked 446). First round. I played Scott Lipsky or Dusan Vemic. I think it was Scott Lipsky (yes it was). He beat me like 61 61 (actually 62 62). I remember waking up that morning of the match feeling light-headed. And I couldn’t figure out what was causing it. And I went out on the court and I was totally out of it. Because I was light-headed I lost really bad. That kind of light-headed condition lasted for months actually. Then some family things happened and I had to take care of somebody. That was the last match I played. So it was very anti-climatic. And my health wasn’t great. And it was the last match I ever played.”

Update: MEMORABLE MIDDLE CAREER MATCH: “First full year on the Tour after graduating Stanford, 1997. I had won my first round against Mikael Tillstrom, he was 65 in the world. I had gotten a wildcard. Then I found myself playing against the No. 2 player in the world Michael Chang on Arthur Ashe Stadium. The first year of Arthur Ashe Stadium. It was a Friday night match, USA Network, John McEnroe and Ted Robinson on the call…’the lefty from Stanford with the big serve…'”

“And serving at 5-4, set point, I hit a nasty wide slice, I came in and hit an unbelievable angled backhand volley to win the first set against Chang. The crowd erupted. They were wondering, Who is this guy? Where did he come from? I smiled at my box which had my parents, coaches and friends.”

“Why did I lose the match? My mindset was not win the match. My mindset was to keep it close and quote, unquote, not embarrass myself. And that was my big mistake. And that mistake cost myself possibly the ability to maybe win the match. It was an amazing experience. I played against the best in the world. I wish I had a different mindset going into the match. Focusing on finding a way to win instead of not embarrassing myself. And that during the match I would have kept mindset. And it just shows the power of belief systems. And that’s one reason why I’m a mindset coach today, a performance coach. Because I want people to believe in a bigger system than what they might naturally have for themselves.”


Salzenstein finished his 11-year pro career with a 16-41 ATP record, earning $616,017. His best ranking was 100 in singles in 2004. Today, the two-time All American at Stanford University operates Tennis Evolution… www.tennisevolution.com, a leader in Online Tennis Education. He’s also an Extreme Focus Mindset Coach. “Jeff is an excellent analyst,” praises former ATP champion Hans Gildemeister.

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  • Hartt · July 23, 2019 at 1:04 pm

    Scoop, this is a great idea. I enjoyed the first installment. I would also like hearing about one match that stands out in their memory, for whatever reason.

  • Scoop Malinowski · July 23, 2019 at 1:17 pm

    Hartt, thank you, I was thinking of adding one match in the middle too. That does make sense to balance it between the two extremes. Not unlike an Oreo cookie with the filling πŸ™‚ It’s always nice to hear about forgotten or obscure matches which have meaning to the certain player.

  • catherine · July 23, 2019 at 2:11 pm

    Off topic but breaking news – Beatriz Haddad Miai has been suspended after testing positive for SARMS. She’s the 3rd Brazilian to be caught by the anti-doping agency. It’s hard to believe players are still doing this. She’s appealed of course. I wonder what her excuse is.

  • Scoop Malinowski · July 23, 2019 at 3:38 pm

    Very rare for a woman player to be caught cheating with PEDs, even rarer for one to be caught or accused of match fixing.

  • Scoop Malinowski · July 23, 2019 at 4:47 pm

    UPDATE ALERT: Jeff agreed to add a middle career match memory and a good one too. See above…

  • Vijay · July 23, 2019 at 6:56 pm

    Very nicely done. Good on you for thinking of this, and thanks to Jeff for obliging.

  • Hartt · July 23, 2019 at 7:11 pm

    Scoop, that is great.

  • Jg · July 23, 2019 at 7:12 pm

    Tiafoe should call Salzenstein fast, after losing to Tomic first round

  • Scoop Malinowski · July 23, 2019 at 8:14 pm

    He should. I think Tiafoe’s buddy is a minor league coach and hang out buddy. His career will get a boost if he hires a serious, real coach with ATP experience and proven training systems.

  • catherine · July 24, 2019 at 2:06 am


    More detail on the doping from Stephanie Myles. Be nice to think this wasn’t an issue in tennis these days but sadly not true. However, I’ve never believed, apart from Sharapova, that the top players have ever dabbled. Of course you’ll never persuade some people.

    BTW – nothing on the WTA site – surprise.

  • Jeff · July 24, 2019 at 2:27 am

    Jack Sock gets dumped in two tiebreakers. Yet he’s not the biggest chump in Atlanta.

    Grigor Dimitrov loses to Kevin King, who had never won an ATP match before. What has happened to Grigor? Should he retire? Play Challengers? Just two years ago, he won the ATP finals.

  • catherine · July 24, 2019 at 3:30 am

    Seems there’s a hex on the tour Finals. Sascha won last year πŸ™‚

    Not too bad for Sock considering how long he’s been out. He’s lost a bit of weight and got rid of that horrible beard, unless my eyes deceive me.

  • catherine · July 24, 2019 at 3:33 am

    Yes, my eyes deceive me – the face fungus is still there. Somehow I can’t forget he once dated Sloane Stephens.

  • catherine · July 24, 2019 at 6:55 am

    Serena must be serious – she’s entered Toronto and Cincinnatti along with most of the top flight.

    Bianca A is entered for Washington but I have my doubts about that.

  • Scoop Malinowski · July 24, 2019 at 8:27 am

    Super G actually seems to have regressed under Agassi’s coaching. Maybe Agassi was a great player but a mediocre to poor coach.

  • Scoop Malinowski · July 24, 2019 at 8:29 am

    Kozlov just beat King in the first round of that $50,000 winner take all money tournament in Chatham NJ last week. Kozlov quit yesterday in Binghmaton vs five foot six Ortega Olmedo, neck pain.

  • jg · July 24, 2019 at 12:10 pm

    I saw that Kozlov won that tournament beating Estrella Burgos in the final, not a bad pay day–much better than a challenger without the points though, who were the 8 pros in the tournament?

  • Scoop Malinowski · July 24, 2019 at 12:52 pm

    It was a much needed payday, Kevin King, Donald Young, that’s all I know. Interesting DY did not get a wildcard into Atlanta qualies, just doubles with Eubanks and they play Bryans 1R.

  • catherine · July 24, 2019 at 3:52 pm


    What I find slightly offensive about the whole Davis Cup/ATP competition thing is the enormous amount of money being spent on something which was never really necessary.

  • Hartt · July 24, 2019 at 6:19 pm

    Serena needs the match play, so playing Toronto and Cincy makes sense.

    As for Bianca, I will wait and see. I don’t know about DC, but she is the face of the Rogers Cup advertising campaign, so it will be a big blow to the tourney if she can’t compete. But of course she should take part in it only if she is ready.

  • Jeff · July 25, 2019 at 1:28 am

    Donald Young lost in the second round of Atlanta qualifying to Jason Jung.

    I really dislike this Pique changing everything in tennis. Seems insane that some random no-name soccer player can do this and quite embarrassing for the sport. Nobody cares about this fake Davis Cup.

    Who is this Withrow that Jack Sock is playing with? Surprised he isn’t teaming with Kyrgios.

  • catherine · July 25, 2019 at 1:31 am

    Bianca has pulled out of Washington but is still scheduled to play Rogers Cup, on the Tuesday.

  • catherine · July 25, 2019 at 1:35 am

    Jeff – Scoop mentioned that Sock isn’t playing with Kyrgios and the two don’t seem as close as they were.

    Jack may have got some advice on that or come to a conclusion on his own.

  • catherine · July 25, 2019 at 1:42 am

    Now we’ve seen it all – Sascha Zverev and gf Olya post a video of their hotel room. What’s next ? Having a bath together ? Please.

  • catherine · July 25, 2019 at 1:58 am

    The puff for Cori Gauff has begun already – we’ll hear nothing but Gauff Gauff Gauff until the US Open. Dream final ? Serena v Cori. I hope it doesn’t happen.

  • Scoop Malinowski · July 25, 2019 at 7:03 am

    Jackson withrow is his childhood buddy from Nebraska, played at Texas A&M, they play doubles infrequently and have won at least one ATP title. Withrow is ranked 127 now so Sock is probably trying to help him up his ranking again. Sock may have cut ties with Nick.

  • jg · July 25, 2019 at 7:16 am

    Winthrop has played doubles with Sock before, winning titles, he’s a friend of his from high school who played D1 tennis and plays on the tour in doubles, I think he trains with Sock and helped him come back after his injury. I just saw Sock is going to play doubles with Leander Paes next week in DC, the Murrays are plying together and Kyrigos Tsitsipas. Apparently Mark Ein is highlighting doubles, helping put these teams together.

  • Hartt · July 25, 2019 at 7:42 am

    When I first heard that Kyrgios and Tsitsipas were going to play doubles together at the Citi Open I could hardly believe it. Talk about an unlikely pair! But good for the tourney to feature doubles.

  • Scoop Malinowski · July 25, 2019 at 7:55 am

    Paes has had three different partners in three weeks, Marcus Daniell in Newport, Marius Copil in Atlanta and now Sock in DC. Sock and Paes together should be very interesting blend of talents, hope they succeed. Doubles is becoming very popular right now since Andy Murray/Serena. These Citi Open pairings could spark a doubles boom era. With all the monotony of singles baseline points, doubles could infringe on the tennis entertainment marketplace. These elite doubles pairings will need stadium or grandstand because the crowds will be huge to see them.

  • Scoop Malinowski · July 25, 2019 at 7:56 am

    jg, I spoke with Withrow in Delray last year, he is friends with Sock since age 10.

  • Hartt · July 25, 2019 at 8:02 am

    I hope doubles does gain in popularity, it is so much fun to watch. It’s a shame it takes “name” singles players playing doubles to draw crowds, but I guess that is the reality.

  • Hartt · July 25, 2019 at 8:07 am

    Andreescu withdrawing from the Citi Open was not a surprise and I am not optimistic about her playing the Rogers Cup. Shapo has also withdrawn from DC and I wonder what is happening there. He hasn’t played since the beginning of Wimby and you’d think he’d want some match play before the Rogers Cup.

  • catherine · July 25, 2019 at 9:13 am

    It’s a shame – just as Canada seemed poised to take over the nextgen game things have gone pear-shaped – Bianca with a shadow over her and Dennis not around. I hope Felix is staying fit.

    Bianca maybe should scrub this year – I presume she’d get a protected ranking.

  • catherine · July 25, 2019 at 9:15 am

    Scoop – I honestly can’t see mixed doubles on an upswing. You need good women players and they’re not going to be interested.

  • Scoop Malinowski · July 25, 2019 at 9:51 am

    Catherine, if Federer calls on all top WTA players to start playing mixed, most of them they will do exactly as told.

  • Hartt · July 25, 2019 at 10:54 am

    Felix is still slated for the Citi Open, so I hope all is well with him. During Hamburg they had a review of the Rio tourney where FAA did so well, and it reminded me how much I miss seeing him play.

    As far as Bianca and Shapo go, I am simply hoping for the best.

  • Scoop Malinowski · July 25, 2019 at 12:27 pm

    May be the best Citi Open field ever.

  • Jeff · July 25, 2019 at 1:14 pm

    Is this thaw in the Sock/Kyrgios relationship true or just speculation. Kyrgios was spotted watching Sock’s match in Atlanta with a couple of hotties. So I think they are still on good terms. We know they both like the ladies.

    Meanwhile Kyrgios continuing his feud with Novak, crossed out Novak’s name on some kid’s shirt on his Instagram. Amazing the amount of disrespect he continues to show to the world’s No. 1 player. It truly is outrageous.

  • Scoop Malinowski · July 25, 2019 at 1:51 pm

    Heard Nick and Novak had a confrontation a few years ago at a night party at a Mexico hotel. Maybe this is the basis of the obvious grudge feud between the two. Nick’s antics are again Muhammad Ali like, how Ali antagonized Frazier, Foreman, Shavers, Liston.

  • Jeff · July 25, 2019 at 10:04 pm

    Scoop, not sure about if Mexico was the start since Reddit posted a photo of the two hanging out in Toronto last year at the Masters event there. So this is relatively new.

    No doubt everyone hoping this will derail Djoker but it will probably make him definitely win the U.S. Open now.



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