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July 11, 2009

Michael Chang

MICHAEL CHANG: It's great. Had a fun time last night, although we got munched pretty bad. It's nice to be back playing close to home. This is really my backyard. I'm not from the home team, but I feel like I'm a hometown player here. Yeah, looking forward to it.
It's been a fun format. A little bit different, obviously. Takes a little bit of getting used to. But it's nice to play in a team format, which is something obviously we don't get a chance to see that much out on tour, other than playing Davis Cup or maybe a couple other events.

Q. What is home?
MICHAEL CHANG: I'm in Mission Viejo, 20, 25 minutes south of here.

Q. Would you have liked to have played for the Breakers?
MICHAEL CHANG: I think it's a little bit drawn by lot actually. That's all through Samantha at the WTT. I know Andre is representing one of the East Coast cities, even though he's in Vegas.
Yeah, I think it's more or less done by that way than anything else.

Q. Is this your first time playing TeamTennis?
MICHAEL CHANG: First time for me.

Q. Why now?
MICHAEL CHANG: I think before, obviously when I was out on tour, it would conflict with some of the other tournaments we were preparing for for the US Open. World TeamTennis would roughly take about three weeks. The scheduling was a little bit different back then, I think. It was a little bit more during the middle of the summer as opposed to towards the beginning of the summer.
I think schedule-wise it's much better for a lot of the players. Obviously now being retired, I have a little more flexibility on my time schedule. You know, it's nice to be able to come out and be part of it finally. Billie Jean has been asking me for a long time to be able to come out and play World TeamTennis. Finally had an opportunity to be able to do that.

Q. When did you first start playing tennis?
MICHAEL CHANG: I started playing tennis at about six or seven years old. You know, I don't know when I necessarily started to take it seriously. I mean, I started playing tournaments at probably seven, eight years old. But played a lot of other sports growing up. I don't think I really started to actually, you know, really think about it becoming a career until I was 15, when I started to win some of the major 18 and Under Nationals. From there you start getting wild cards into professional events as an amateur. Win the Nationals 18 and Unders Kalamazoo, you get a wild card into the US Open. From there, tennis takes on a whole new level. You start obviously having to look at some more opportunities, what you really want to do, thoughts to having it as a career.

Q. Was there a specific tournament you won early where you realized you had the talent, potential to become a professional?
MICHAEL CHANG: I'd probably have to say probably Kalamazoo. I was 15 at the time. All the players know if you win that, you get the wild card. It's obviously very, very exciting for me to have an opportunity to play against the best players in the world at such a young age.
From there I got a few other opportunities to play some other events. Actually played four events in '87. After those four events, I went from having no ranking at all to a ranking of 163 in the world. So I did pretty well in those tournaments.
After that you start to have to kind of think, Hey, what are the possibilities here, looking at some different options. You know, you kind of weigh them from there.

Q. Do you have special memories of a tournament you played in Orange County?
MICHAEL CHANG: Well, we've been fortunate to have a lot of great tournaments here in California. Obviously you've got the Bay Area tournament there in San Jose, the L.A. Open, which has always been played at UCLA, and then obviously the Pacific Life Open that is down in Indian Wells.
It's fun to play in your backyard. I've had a lot of great success playing very, very close to home. No doubt, part of that has to do with getting a lot of great crowd support, a lot of family and friends coming out to watch. On top of that, really being familiar with the courts and the surfaces.
So it's what you grow up playing on, it's easy to feel comfortable playing in a certain place.

Q. Any specific tournaments you played within Orange County?
MICHAEL CHANG: Well, I think with most of the juniors growing up in Southern California, there's probably about maybe four or five major tournaments that they play. I mean, obviously you have the sectionals that in my days was played at Los Cap, another one at Anaheim, another one in Fullerton, Pasadena, and Ojai. Those were the major junior tournaments that most of the best juniors in Southern California would play. Then you get some outside players like Andre who didn't get much competition in Vegas, so he'd come over to Southern California to compete against the best players over here.

Q. How did winning the French change your life?
MICHAEL CHANG: Changed my life in certain aspects. I think obviously being 17 years old, you no longer are the underdog going into every match. After the French Open, all of a sudden people don't regard you as a 17-year-old, they regard you as a Grand Slam champion. All of a sudden the pressure gets flipped.
You know, it was obviously a great experience for me. It was a bit trying, the subsequent months, just getting used to being in the top 10, getting used to the press and the expectation. But I think in many aspects that helped me, you know, to mature a lot faster and to be able to continue to have some very, very good success in the following years.
So I learned a lot of life lessons, as well, at that tournament. Definitely ones I will not forget.

Q. What would you say occupies most of your time now?
MICHAEL CHANG: I think a lot of it is ministry. I do a lot of stuff with our Chang Family foundation here, and in Seattle where I used to live. I've been playing a lot of tennis in preparation for a lot of the tournaments that are coming up, upcoming Champions Tour event. Obviously still getting settled in my marriage and looking for a home.
You know, it's been fun. It's been some good times. The Lord certainly has blessed us immensely.

Q. Can you talk about the purpose of your foundation.
MICHAEL CHANG: Yeah, I mean, everything is ministry related, really introducing the gospel to people, using the avenue of sports to be able to do that, really kind of taking three sports - tennis, basketball and volleyball - as a means of outreach. Most of our leagues are anywhere from eight to ten weeks. We'll play on one particular day. Giving you an example. Earlier this year in the spring, we had a tennis season that we played I think for eight weeks. We played every Sunday in a team format actually from 12:00 to 5:00 every Sunday. So we had about eight teams with probably about, I don't know, 15 people on each team. We had a couple of days that we had clinics, then all the rest we had competition. It actually was very similar to World TeamTennis. We have men's singles, women's singles, men's doubles, women's doubles and mixed doubles. A great way to encourage fellowship, friendship, and do it through the means of sports.

Q. (Question regarding giving advice.)
MICHAEL CHANG: I think it depends on where they really are. You have to look at where a youngster's heart is. I think it's always encouraging for them to be able to go out and to tell them, Hey, you know, if something has been placed upon your heart, I think it's important to be able to go out and pursue your dreams. It's nice to have a support system that will help you being able to do that. But I would never crush any youngster's dreams if that's really what's in their heart.
You know, a lot can obviously be accomplished through talent, but a lot can be accomplished through hard work and perseverance, as well. So, you know, dedication I think will naturally come with people that really enjoy what they're doing.

Q. (Question regarding World TeamTennis.)
MICHAEL CHANG: I think World TeamTennis actually brings a unique element to the sport of tennis. I think it's a great way to promote the sport. It's very easy to get the crowd involved, very easy to help kids to understand the importance of a team concept. On top of that, it's just very fan friendly.
Unfortunately, you don't have a whole lot of tournaments now where you're actually able to get this close to a lot of the players and to be able to hear what's going on out on the court, to be able to see sometimes the pace of a shot, the ball. I think World TeamTennis, their first goal was to say, Hey, how can we get more and more people involved in the sport of tennis?
Billie Jean has always been -- that's always been something that's been very, very close to her heart and all the things she's been involved with. I think this falls along those same lines.
It creates a unique opportunity also to be able to see champions of the past, current champions, and future champions, as well, which is not always easy to sometimes see either.

Q. There's an interesting blend of players like yourself, John McEnroe, Maria Sharapova, some new players, kind of working towards different things, but a platform to promote the game.
MICHAEL CHANG: Absolutely. Absolutely. You know, the older generation, I think they realize the importance of promoting the sport of tennis. You know, certainly all of the blessings that we've received from the sport of tennis has to do with people coming out to watch, supporting the tournaments. You get people like Jeff Purser, who is promoting the sport here through World TeamTennis, sponsors. They realize that.
It's important also to teach the younger generation the importance of that as well. I don't think you can have a selfish attitude and expect to be able to be successful in tennis I think in many regards. Tennis, even though it's an individual sport, if you're out there just trying to do your own thing, not really care about anybody else or who's putting in the time and effort to put together the tournaments, you know, sponsors, what they want to be able to see come out of a tournament, then after a while people lose interest. And that's not good.
Also on the flipside, I think when you're able to make yourself available, it allows the public to be able to get a chance to know you. We've seen that in the past, that some players did not allow that to happen, and those people actually ended up kind of getting the short end of a stick because public perception is not necessarily what someone is really like. And that's not good either.
I think it goes hand-in-hand for the older generation, the younger generation, promoting the sport overall is going to help everybody in the long run.

Q. (Question regarding Billie Jean's vision.)
MICHAEL CHANG: I definitely think so. I definitely think so. The other thing about World TeamTennis is you get an opportunity to be able to see both the men and women play, and be able to play together. You may see that in the Grand Slams, but outside of that, there are no other mixed doubles events. There are no events where you have that opportunity, except for a couple other ones. You know, it creates a unique format that's fun.

Q. Have you done the mixed yet?
MICHAEL CHANG: I have not. I have not. Yeah, so, I don't think I'll be playing mixed tonight. I think Knowles, with him being Wimbledon mixed doubles champion this year, I think he will take precedence over me for sure.

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