USTA MEDIA CONFERENCE
October 9, 2002
TIM CURRY: Thanks, everyone, for joining us on the call. We have with us Michael Chang who is going to be playing the next two Challengers on the USTA Professional Circuit over the next two weeks, next week in Burbank and the following week in San Antonio. Michael who has 34 ATP titles won a USTA Pro Circuit event earlier this year in California. Without further adieu we'll just open the conference call for general questions.
Q. Have you ever played in San Antonio before, an exhibition or otherwise?
MICHAEL CHANG: I am trying to think of that. I don't think so. I played in Houston on a few occasions both as a professional and also as an amateur, 12-and-under Nationals in Houston but I don't recall ever playing in San Antonio.
Q. I guess that's probably exciting going to a new place, I would imagine that's pretty hard to do when you have been on the circuit for so long and seen so many places?
MICHAEL CHANG: That's true. It is always nice to go to a new place and see how things are different and stuff. Yeah, definitely.
Q. What do you know about San Antonio other than probably the sporting type thing?
MICHAEL CHANG: I know obviously about the Spurs and I am a David Robinson fan so, yeah, that's pretty much it.
Q. You just got back from Japan where you played Lleyton Hewitt. Where do you feel like you gauge after playing that match with him?
MICHAEL CHANG: Well, I didn't exactly play a very good match. He played some good tennis. He served very well actually and didn't give me a whole lot of opportunities on his serve. I felt like I was playing pretty good tennis. I lost a tight match to Corretja the week before in Hong Kong. I won my first round match against Clavet in three sets. I felt like I was playing good tennis. I think that when I went out and played Lleyton I just wasn't quite as sharp as I would have liked to have been. But he served very well and didn't give me a whole lot of opportunities on his serve. A little bit disappointing, but for the most part I had been playing pretty good tennis.
Q. Does he remind you a little bit of yourself?
MICHAEL CHANG: Yeah, I think definitely in certain regards. Obviously he's a great mover on the court. He doesn't really hit the ball that hard. He's not really a power player. He's a very good counter-puncher; I think he has got an underrated serve. People don't quite recognize that he serves very well; places his serve very well, and I think Lleyton is the type of player that definitely likes to have a target, guys coming in, and giving him a target to hit at. So I think in certain aspects we have some similarities, but at the same time we have some differences too.
Q. Seeing that you have a book coming out and congratulations on that.
MICHAEL CHANG: Thank you.
Q. With your book what kind of message are you hoping people will get from your book and what do you think that's in your book that might surprise people?
MICHAEL CHANG: Well, I think that as far as my book goes it was launched out June 4 and something that it took about a year and a half to complete and definitely took a lot of time and a lot of effort. Something that I corresponded with Mike quite a bit throughout the year, sat down a couple of times during the year during the off-season and stuff be able to go through a lot of the different stories and a lot of things that I wanted in the book. I think sometimes when people see out there on tennis court is not necessarily what the person is all about. And I felt like it really was an opportunity to share a little bit about my upbringing about my family and the importance that family has played in my life and my career. Looking back at some of the matches that I have played, some of the bigger matches in the Grand Slams, a little bit of the having struggles of last year and kind of relating that to the theme of life being that not everything is always on the uppity-up, but you are going to have your valleys as well and then definitely a lot of it also is about my Christian Faith and the importance of that's played in my life and how the Lord takes first precedence in my life. So far the feedback that we have gotten on the book is that it's a pretty easy book to read and a lot of people tell me that they enjoy it quite a bit and they think feel like it's more or less like someone is telling them a story. That makes me feel good about it because that's really what I wanted to accomplish with the book and wanted it to hopefully touch a lot of lives in whosever hands it may get in.
Q. No shocking revelations like the John McEnroe book?
MICHAEL CHANG: Yeah, well, I think with John, yeah, I think John's purpose of writing his book was maybe a little bit different than mind. John is obviously very good in creating controversy maybe on -- now I can say off the court, I guess, but John is such a character, such a unique character and I think in his own way he does bring a certain sparkle to the game of tennis, not only when he was playing, but even now as a commentator. Definitely a different way of going about writing a book. Yeah, I better stop there.
Q. Also just look back a few years I know you went through your struggles last year, Pete went through his struggles and he a breakthrough; Goran had his struggles and had a breakthrough long ago, Andre had his breakthrough. Do you still feel that you have that in you?
MICHAEL CHANG: To be totally honest with you I don't know that something like that will happen. I am hopeful. That's definitely that I am hopeful thinking that -- I believe in miracles and it's going to take one definitely in order for me to accomplish something like that, something that Pete and Andre and Goran have done over the past few years. That's just really tremendous and to be honest with you, as a tennis player and as someone who has grown up playing with them, you feel great about seeing those kind of things accomplished, particularly guys who you are your peers, guys you grew up playing with, and yeah, just hats off. So hopefully I would hope that maybe something like that would happen in the twilight of my career, and I still have the desire to go out and to play hard, practice hard, and definitely want to go out there and try to win and if it comes and if God grants me the opportunity to win another Grand Slam title, then hopefully it will happen. But if not, still able to look back at my career and say that I was pleased much more so than I have deserved, much more so than I have imagined, and be content with that.
Q. I just wanted to ask you, the Burbank tournament has had past champions of Agassi and Roddick, and for a fall tournament it's done pretty well. It's real close to the Studios and it's pretty much in L.A.. What are your thoughts about playing in Burbank and have you ever been to the facility, and I just wanted to get your thoughts about the Challenger Series and what you think it does for players who are trying to improve their rankings?
MICHAEL CHANG: Well, I think for me the only time that I can recall ever being in the Burbank area was to the do the Jay Leno show. So outside of that, I am not familiar with the tennis complex. I do know that Cecil has won I think maybe two, three years ago, so -- and I am assuming that this event is definitely -- it's not going to be an easy event because all of the young Americans are going to be there. My purpose in playing, finishing out the year and playing a few challengers is really to try to get my ranking up to the point where hopefully I don't have to go and ask for a wildcard into the Australian Open. Right now I am like ranked maybe 120-something and, you know, it would be nice to be able to get back to the top hundred where I don't have to ask for a wildcard. Hopefully L.A. -- the L.A. area has been very kind to me obviously growing up in Southern California playing a heck of a lot of tournaments there, had a lot of great success in the State of California, period, and had a good tournament earlier this career in
Calabasas and hopefully Burbank will be similar to those tournaments and those successes. That's what I am hoping for.
Q. Do you have more of a following when you are here locally in Southern California?
MICHAEL CHANG: I definitely get a lot of support when I come to Southern California. I have a lot of relatives, a lot of family on my dad's side in Southern California in Thousand Oaks and the surrounding L.A. area. Then obviously I have got a lot of friends and stuff too. So it's nice to be able to have them come out and support me and come out and cheer for me and stuff. Generally speaking, when you have the crowd behind you, it gives you a little bit of an extra boost and lot of times you are able to come out and play better tennis.
Q. You have gone as high as No. 2 in the world. You and Pete probably go all the way back to the juniors, I am assuming, in Southern California; is that correct?
MICHAEL CHANG: First time I actually played Pete was when I was eight years old. So I don't remember who won, but I do remember playing him when we were eight years old. Then Andre would trek on over from Vegas because he really didn't have a whole lot of competition over there to play the Southern California tournaments because the Southern California section at that time was the toughest in the nation.
Q. Basically the three of you guys all played together basically playing together the last 20 years almost?
MICHAEL CHANG: Yeah. Definitely.
MICHAEL CHANG: I think that's what made it so much fun over the years. I think definitely we have had our years where we were very, very extremely competitive in certain aspects. We knew that we would run into each other the latter stages of the tournament and I think early on in our career I would train quite a bit with Pete. Actually we trained together for the 1989 French. Then now I think as we are approaching the twilight off our careers there's a little bit of different flavor we know that we are on our way out and the new guys are coming up and we encourage each other and want to see each other do well and be able to finish on a high note. I think it's great to see somebody like Pete come out and win the US Open, and Andre is having some -- definitely the last few years have been tremendous for him. And really it's great to see.
Q. Most of the Challenger events are -- for the most part they are geared toward the younger guys that are up-an-coming. A lot of people raised questions in the past of whether or not there are going to be young Americans that aren't going to replace the three of you being yourself, Pete, and Andre. Do you foresee -- we know Roddick is going to be up there but do you see a couple more guys that could possibly be Top-5 guys, or guys that are going to be competing for Grand Slams in the next few years?
MICHAEL CHANG: I think definitely there are some very talented young Americans that are coming out that have the potential to do very well in Grand Slams and hopefully in the coming years hopefully they will breakthrough and win one. Andy obviously is the leader of that pack, but you have got guys like Jan-Michael Gambill, James Blake has really been turning it up over the past year and a half. Then you have got some guys that I feel like are able to do well, they just kind of need just one little breakthrough to kind of push them over the hump; give them that extra confidence. Guys like Cecil and, you know, I feel like they are pretty close. So by all means, in all honesty, I feel like it would be very difficult to replace this generation that we have had. When you take into consideration, Pete, Andre, myself, Jim Courier, Todd Martin, MaliVai Washington, David Wheaton, we grew up playing against each other through the juniors and to have a crop like that come out on Tour and be successful and I think to a certain degree for quite a number of years to be able to dominate the Tour, I feel like that in itself is very, very special. I think that it's going to be a tough act to follow. I feel like some of the young Americans are maybe feeling some pressure that they won't maybe, under normal circumstances, feel, because of what the generation before has done.
Q. Essentially you guys basically took the torch from John and Jimmy.
MICHAEL CHANG: Right. So it is not an easy act to follow, but I think -- I don't think you are going to be able to find this many players in one particular class doing well, but I think that's going to be tough. Definitely have, you know, a couple here or a couple there, and think it's very, very possible.
Q. Have you had a chance at all to see who is going to be playing in Burbank?
MICHAEL CHANG: I have not but I am assuming that the young Americans are going to there be.
Q. Gimbelstob is going to be there. Cecil will be there. Have you played Justin on several occasions?
MICHAEL CHANG: I played Justin on a couple of occasions. Two or three times, I beat him in L.A. a couple of years ago and then I lost to him actually earlier this year. I lost to him in a tight three-setter. I lost like 7-5 in the third. I played Cecil in the Finals of Calabasas this year. Actually I played Justin in Calabasas as well.
Q. I guess Justin is a big serve and volleyer from what I have seen?
MICHAEL CHANG: Yeah.
Q. I know he's 6'5". Does that make it difficult to play against him?
MICHAEL CHANG: I think when you see someone was like 6'3", 6'4", I mean, it's almost the norm on Tour these days. (Laughs) Maybe the only odd ball is when you see somebody like Todd Martin who is 6' 6", or Norman who is 6'7", 6' 8", but really to see a guy who is 6'1", 6'2", 6'3", is almost average height nowadays. All the players have big serves and you are going to come to expect that from these guys. It's pretty much common place now.
Q. I am in Connecticut - actually pretty close to the Hall of Fame in Newport Rhode Island. Just wondering how you feel -- obviously it looks like Pete and Andre will be shoe-ins. How do you feel about your own chances of making it?
MICHAEL CHANG: Well, obviously it would be a great honor to be able to make it into the Hall of Fame. I think like you said, for Andre and Pete yeah, if for some reason they don't get in, you wonder what the process of having to get this is about. Yeah, definitely, I think that to be able to be recognized like that for your accomplishments is something that's very, very special, and yeah, I feel like I have been blessed in so many ways with the sport of tennis, and to be able to have a place where you can show your talent and be able to go out and win tournaments and win events, and do something where it is a career, but at the same time don't feel like a career because you enjoyed so much, I think that's pretty special.
Q. Do you see yourself as on the cusp, maybe if you had played a little bit more Davis Cup you'd have a better chance or do you think you have a good chance anyway?
MICHAEL CHANG: Well, I would think that I would have a pretty good chance. Obviously, it's not really for me to say. That's really the judge of those people, and I feel like I will just leave it at that. Just got to continue to work hard and hopefully finish my career on a high note, and I think regardless I will be able to walk away from professional tennis and feel good about things. I can really only go out and try my best and that's all I can ask of myself and that's all people can ask of me.
Q. Wondering if you would just reflect a little bit on the fact that you were No. 2 and I think I checked today you are like 128 now. Do you have any thoughts on what is happened, whether tennis has just gotten that much tougher with all the bigger guys coming up? Do you think it has just been maybe lack of concentration on your part?
MICHAEL CHANG: I think initially the year after 1997 I finished the year ranked 3 behind Rafter and Pete. Pretty much spent the whole year at No. 2. I felt like after that I had a couple of bad injuries that kind of knocked me down and it was difficult to bouncy back from that. Then I felt like there were different things, a little bit of loss of confidence and obviously the players are getting better and better. That's by -- no question about that. So past few years have been tough. To be honest with you I don't feel like I am ever going to be able to recapture that form that took me to No. 2 in the world because I was playing great tennis consistently throughout the year. I don't feel like I am really capable of doing that now, but I do feel like I am still capable of playing great tennis.
Q. Is that just the wear-and-tear factor?
MICHAEL CHANG: I think it is a little bit of the wear-and-tear. You are definitely playing a lot of tennis and tennis not having that much of an off-season other than really the month of December, it does become a little bit difficult. So you have to schedule your tournaments intelligently and get your priorities straight. So yeah, so I feel like hopefully over the next year or so there are some good things in store, and it would be nice to be able to maybe sometime throughout the year put together seven great three-out-of-five set matches. (Laughs) -- I don't know if I have to elaborate on what that means, but to do that in a two-week period would be great.
Q. Change of equipment over the last 10 or twelve years has any effect on your results, do you think?
MICHAEL CHANG: I think that -- that's a little bit difficult to say. I think that the equipment has changed a little bit. I don't think you can really say that it's the determining factor. But I think that the guys are a lot stronger nowadays, they are more athletic, they are fitter. I think all of those things have helped to make the equipment better. Because the guys are capable of doing more. That would be what I would say.
Q. You at one point had sort of built yourself up much like Agassi but you found that didn't really help you much?
MICHAEL CHANG: Yeah, I mean, I know that Andre does a quite a bit of weight lifting and does a lot of strength work. During the off-season in 1997 after I was very close to becoming the No. 1 I decided to try to really try to work on getting stronger and was hoping that that would really make a difference between being No. 2 in the world and being No. 1. What I did was over a six-week period I worked very, very hard with physical conditioning, physical strength; probably put on about, gosh, about 8 or 10 pounds. And definitely got a lot stronger. There was no question about that. The thing that became a little bit of a hinderance for me was that I think when I became that much stronger what I didn't realize and what I maybe took for granted was that it actually ended up taking a way a little bit of speed. Not only speed, but agility and flexibility and that might have been the reason why I started having some, you know, I got hurt on the following year. So I have gone back to what I know and I still use some strength work but not quite as much as I did back then and still want to maintain my strength of movement and speed and agility because now I realize for me as a tennis player, the way I play tennis is based a lot more on those qualities rather than power and muscle. So even if I work and all the strength in the world I don't think I'd -- I still don't think I still would be hitting the ball as hard as a lot of these other guys. I just never won matches that way so it has never been my trait.
Q. You were sort of a counter-puncher too so it really doesn't work for a counter-puncher?
MICHAEL CHANG: Exactly.
Q. During the 1990s you and Andre and Pete and Jim combined to win about 150 singles tight. Talk a little bit about how special that time was for American tennis for you all?
MICHAEL CHANG: Well, I think that -- I think what made it special was that this particular generation we have known each other for so long. You look back and I have known Pete since he was eight years old when we first played. Jim and Andre, they were roommates over in Bollettieri's. Jim and I were roommates during the junior Davis Cup. I would train a little bit with Pete in the early part of our careers. We trained together for the 1989 French. Andre stayed at my house when we played a junior event in San Diego. So I mean, we have such a history and I think because of that and for us to all be on Tour and be as successful as we have been, I think that's what made it special. And I just don't -- I think it would be difficult to be able to follow a group like this from one generation and, you know, really see them be as successful as we have been. Then obviously also the different rivalries that we have had. I think for us for guys in particular there's a difference between playing each other than if we were to go play somebody else. There's an added intensity, added electricity in the crowd. You can feel it. You can sense it. And before you even step on the court your adrenaline is flowing like, you know, it's flowing like it doesn't flow with anybody else. That's what I think made those matches very special. And I think a lot of times that's what a lot of the public were really looking forward to and also with Andre and Pete having played in the last couple of U.S. Opens.
Q. As successful as you all were during the '90s seemed like tennis in the United States lost a little bit from the days of the '80s with the McEnroes and Connors, do you feel the ATP should have done more to promote tennis in the United States during that time?
MICHAEL CHANG: I think it's difficult to say. I think that their mentality -- I guess it's always easy to say well, we should have done that or should have done that. I think it's difficult in certain aspects for men's tennis now because there's a little bit of a changing of the guard and I know that the ATP, the Tour wants to promote more of the Tour and I think tennis being an individual sport it -- sometimes it's difficult to do. I think they try to maybe take a little bit of the mentality of golf and obviously you have Tiger Woods at the top of the list, but you have got a lot of superstars in the sport of golf. Tennis is just not going to be that way because you have maybe -- you don't have -- it is just different. I think in the '90s, obviously you have got players winning -- certain amount of players winning most of the tournaments and now, I think it's just difficult now to try market so many players, particularly new players and stuff. So I think everyone needs to kind of go out and make their own name and really go from there. Hopefully I know that they have had some campaigns and stuff trying to get the faces out and stuff and hopefully as tennis progresses over the next few years hopefully it will become stronger and stronger.
Q. With as much as you have accomplished in tennis what goals do you feel like you have left to accomplish?
MICHAEL CHANG: Well, obviously it is a dream of mine to go out and to have one more crack at a Grand Slam. Obviously it would be great to be able to win another one. I don't know if that's going to happen or not. I have that dream and that hope and I believe in miracles. (Laughs). But regardless of what happens over the next year or so, if it doesn't happen, I feel like I have been blessed in so many ways through the sport of tennis and I never dreamed to be able to play professionally as I have, and to I think God has blessed me with a lot more than I have imagined. I can walk away really feeling good about the past 15, 16 years on Tour. So, yeah, I still have the desire to go out and to work hard to practice hard and I still love competing and hopefully next year be able to finish somewhere on a high note.
Q. You say that you'd like to win another Grand Slam. Which one would you think is your best possibility at this point the French again or maybe a hard court?
MICHAEL CHANG: I would have -- it's funny, I have always said that my career they said well, which is the one that you probably would be the easiest to win. I mean, none of them are easy to win, but which suits your style the best. I would always say either the Australia or the US Open because I really grew up playing on hard courts, and it's what I am most familiar with and strangely enough Grand Slam-wise I have had the most success at the French. So I don't know - Wimbledon, I don't know. (Laughs).
Q. You say that it will probably take a miracle for you to win another Grand Slam but you would like to end your career on a high note. What would that high note be if it's not a Grand Slam?
MICHAEL CHANG: I really don't know. Obviously I think it would be great to win another tournament. It's been a while. It been a couple of years since I have won a tournament. I know that when I did win the last one in L.A. it was pretty emotional because I realized all the things that I had been through over the past few years, and the struggles and I knew that it was tough. I think I have come to appreciate that title maybe a little bit more so than some of the other ones because of the struggle. So obviously it would be great to be able to break through and win another title. So outside of that, I don't know if you could say well which event and stuff like that, but I just -- it would be nice to be able to somehow finish the year, you know, and say well, that was a great year; it was nice to be able to finish on that note.
Q. You say that it's unlikely that we are going to get another four, five guys of the quality that you and Pete and Andre and Jim and maybe Mal. Do you think it's wrong that we are constantly - whether it's the media or the officials in the game - are putting the pressure on these guys who might not able to come up with those goods that they should kind of back off?
MICHAEL CHANG: I don't think it's wrong because it's only normal. I think when you have the next generation coming up and the older generation starting to phase out I think it's only normal to ask those questions. When we first came out on Tour they were asking the same questions. They were asking well, you know, you guys are the next generation do you guys think you will be able to come out and to do well and to win Grand Slams be in contention. It was the same thing. American tennis was down. Who is going to replace John McEnroe who is going to replace Jimmy Connors. So it's only normal to ask those questions. I think that the players, all the guys know -- they know that even if people don't say, that they know what people are thinking. So it goes with the territory, and I don't think you can ever expect tennis to be a pressureless sport because there's a lot more than just great forehands and great backhands and great serves. A lot of times in order to be able to win Grand Slams you have got to be able to put all those things together and also balance the outside stuff, the pressures that you feel from people, from sponsors, from yourself. All these go with the territory of trying to be one of the best in the world.
TIM CURRY: Thanks again for joining us on this conference call. We wish Michael the best of luck at the next USTA Pro Series Event he is playing and that is the USTA Challenger of Burbank which is at the Burbank Tennis Center starting on Monday. And the USTA Challenger of San Antonio the following week, October 21-27.
MICHAEL CHANG: Thank you.
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