By SAMMY BHATIA
For The News-Letter
Early in the season, the Johns Hopkins Men’s Tennis team is off to an aggressive start as they claimed the top four spots at the Loyola Invitational last weekend. This was their first event of the year, making it an all-Hopkins semifinal round. Two sophomores, Justin Kang and David Perez, led the charge and ended up winning the event.
Currently the Blue Jays are ranked third in the D-III Regional Rankings and 12th nationally. Hopkins junior Mike Buxbaum is ranked first regionally.
With such a dominant performance by the team, each individual player has already showcased the team’s expected future performance in the upcoming season. However, several of the team members pointed to Perez in particular as the player to look out for this season.
“David is one of the most rawly athletic players on our team,” said freshman Nakul Narendran, praising the performance of his teammate Perez in particular. “His footwork is impeccable and he puts in a lot of time on and off the court, which is why he’s improved so much. He’s just an incredible athlete overall.”
The News-Letter sat down with Perez to discuss his performance at the tournament and to elaborate on the team overall.
The News-Letter: How would you say you have you been playing recently, and how would you describe your experience on the Hopkins team thus far?
David Perez: I’ve been feeling really comfortable with my game. Lately I feel I’ve been really solid and consistent this year. And I really like the team. I get along really well with everyone on it and I feel comfortable when I am with them. I trust in them a lot and I feel like they always got my back.
N-L: What would you say is your biggest strength and your biggest weakness on court?
DP: It’s hard to say one specific strength and weakness that I have, because it all depends on the day. Sometimes my greatest strength is my serve, but sometimes it’s a weakness — it just depends on the day.
If I had to say what is more consistently a strength than a weakness for me I would say my serve, baseline game, fitness and consistency are strong points in my game usually. My weaknesses, on the other hand, are usually my net game, my mind and my focus.
N-L: How instrumental is the team’s leadership, both the coaches and also the captains, in the team’s success?
DP: Coach Willenborg and Coach Vann have started off doing a great job this year. Practice has been good, and we are now doing morning workouts two days of the week in the varsity gym, which is really good for our fitness.
I feel also that the captain, Nick Garcia, has been doing a great job this year keeping the team in check, making sure everyone is well prepared for tournaments and matches and at practice every day warmed up before coach starts. I feel like he’ll make a big difference this year and we have a great season to look forwards to if Nick keeps up the good work he’s doing.
The six-foot-nine Floridian first picked up a racket when he was 10 years old and has been playing competitively ever since. Last year as a freshman, Perez went 5-0 in singles matches and lost only one doubles match, winning the other four. Even more impressive, he did not drop a single set in any single match.
As far as professional players go, Perez cites Roger Federer and the rest of the “Big Four” – namely: Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray – as athletes he looks up to.
Perez has a long career in collegiate tennis ahead of him and is clearly determined to make the most of it by pushing himself to the limit and continuing to dominate on court.
Looking forward, the team will compete in one more tournament this fall, the Intercollegiate Tennis Assocation Southeast Regional in Fredericksburg, Va. on Saturday, Oct. 3. Action will then resume in March.