Last summer, in the opening round of the national clay courts, Belkin slipped on the first point and gashed his lip on the racket. He had two stitches and then returned to whip his opponent—No. 1-ranked Whitney Reed—6-4, 3-6, 6-3. Last month in the Dorado Beach junior invitational in Puerto Rico, he began the finals with a temperature that matched the 100� heat. Playing against one of Europe's best juniors—Nick Kalo of Greece—Belkin lost the first set, got even in the second, was down at match point in the third, then won the match and the tournament. Back home in Miami Beach the next day, Belkin was put to bed under heavy blankets with a temperature of 103� and chills.
Go west, young man
The Puerto Rico tournament is likely to be one of Mike Belkin's last appearances as a junior. As part of his own redevelopment program, he has made up his mind not to play the junior circuit this summer, not even to defend his national title. He wants the grass and the competition. He has had about a dozen college offers, from such places as Penn, Illinois and Trinity ( Texas). He also has the word "from just about everyone" that to become great "you have to go to California." But he has a great admiration for Coach Lewis and the knowledge that he has already made a solid name for himself in Miami. He thinks, in the long run, that it would serve him best to remain there.
Anyway, the decision will be all his. Belkin is both self-made and self-disciplined. Naturally, he has received help with his game, but he owes no great debt to any single professional. He is conscientious about getting rest, has never smoked and has a beer every few months or so, quite frankly "just to show off." He is really both appalled and disillusioned at other teen-age athletes not quite so Spartan. He is not given to strenuous training, however, and he has trained particularly hard only once—late last fall in preparation for the defense of his Orange Bowl crown. He succeeded, he believes, only in overtraining; he was weak, stale and played poorly throughout the tournament until Australia's Tony Roche mercilessly eliminated him 6-4, 6-1 in the quarter-finals. It was, coincidentally, also about this time that Mike first went steady. He doesn't think that the girl had anything to do with his sudden bad form but, then, he isn't given to taking any chances when it comes to tennis. So, he gave up the strict training regimen and the girl.
Belkin still practices regularly, of course, but no more than two hours or so a day after school. He is a senior at Miami Beach High, which he has attended for the last three years except for a brief fling at St. Mark's School in Dallas. He went to St. Mark's last year on a scholarship, but was back home in a month. It was too hard and not enough tennis. Belkin hesitates to call himself even an "average" student, and he admits to only a casual interest in his studies. His most difficult courses, English and economics and government, are the first on his schedule. School starts at 7:30, and Mike is ready to drive home in his '57 MG when those classes are over. The rest of the school day—math, Spanish, music and physics—just bores him. "Nine-thirty, I'm ready to go home and get over to the park and play tennis."
There, in North Shore Park, the best junior player in America is trying to redo his whole game before the dreadful sundrenched Miami Beach environment sentences him forever to the unsatisfactory position of being merely the best clay courts player around. "The way I'm going with my serve and volley now," he says, "I think I should be on top by the time I'm 20. Yeah, on top. That's right, the greatest player in the world."