After Legg Mason loss, Salzenstein out, but not down

Tennis

August 18, 2004|By SANDRA McKEE | SANDRA McKEE,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON M-y ItM-Fs said that everyone loves a mystery, and Jeff Salzenstein believes that if thatM-Fs true, he should have a solid fan following.

M-tI am a mystery man, thatM-Fs for sure,M-v said Salzenstein, shortly after losing his firstround match to Michel Kratochvil, 6-4, 7-6 (1), yesterday in the Legg Mason Tennis Classic at the William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center.

M-tAs far as I know, IM-Fm going to be 31 in October and this is my best year so far. When most players are beginning to struggle, I keep getting better. At age 30, IM-Fm playing my best tennis.M-v

But who knows him?

Not Andre Agassi, who was busy beating Paul Goldstein, 6-4, 6-2, on the Stadium Court last night while Salzenstein talked on the park bench.

M-tIM-Fve never met Andre,M-v Salzenstein said. M-tBut IM-Fve seen him in the locker room a lot and I admire him.M-v

In fact, for two men who have never met, they have much in common.

M-tAndre and I are at different ends of the spectrum,M-v said Salzenstein. M-tHe was a phenom at 18 and I was going to a public high school in Denver.M-v

But Agassi has always been a workmanlike player, climbing mountains to get into condition for his matches. And Salzenstein, while not physically running up mountains, has nonetheless climbed one.

Salzenstein is a Stanford University graduate with a degree in economics. He can look at his career winnings of $517,876 over the past 8 1/2 years and figure out that he has earned about $59,000 a year.

M-tYou donM-Ft need a degree in economics to figure out that with travel expenses that run from $60,000 to $100,000 a year, not much is going in the bank,M-v he said. M-tI know it doesnM-Ft add up, but I also know there will be life after tennis.M-v

He knows that because, shortly after graduating, he was forced to miss most of two pro seasons because of ankle and knee surgeries in 1998 and 1999.

M-tThe injuries turned out to be positive events,M-v he said. M-tThey moved me forward. It gave me a chance to evaluate and realize I didnM-Ft want to sit behind a desk pushing paper at that point. So here I still am.

M-tThe unfortunate thing is that you can be one of the best in the world in this game M-y one of the top 100 or top 150 M-y and not be able to make a living at it.M-v

But Salzenstein smiles because heM-Fs continuing to play the game he loves.

When he graduated from Stanford, he had expectations, just as Agassi did at the start of his career. He foresaw making the top 100 within the first three years and playing ATP Tour events every week.

M-tI also foresaw if I didnM-Ft break through in three years, IM-Fd move on,M-v he said and laughed. M-tNow, here we are eight years later. I just love the game and IM-Fm getting better at playing the game. ItM-Fs just so much fun to see how far I can take it."

This past June, he made the top 100 M-y at No. 100 exactly M-y for the first time in his career at age 30. It made him only the second player to do that, joining Dick Norman, who accomplished the feat at 31 in 2002.

Next week, if he doesnM-Ft receive a wild-card berth, which heM-Fs requested, heM-Fll play in the qualifying tournament for the U.S. Open.

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