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August 24, 2017
New Haven, Connecticut
THE MODERATOR: We're thrilled to have Michael and James here for the PowerShares Men's Legends Series. We'll take your first question.
Q. Plan on running each other around tonight?
JAMES BLAKE: Yeah, that will be part of it. We might have lost a little bit of a step. But I think both of us can still run a little bit. So there will be some long points, hopefully.
MICHAEL CHANG: That's a non-question for me as far as running (laughter).
Q. Still got your speed, Michael?
MICHAEL CHANG: Not like it used to be. But, you know, movement obviously is at little different than when you're 17 years old.
Nonetheless, it's great to be back here in New Haven. You know, looking forward to getting back out on the courts. I know James has been playing a lot, playing well. Just won a few days ago in Winston-Salem. Yeah, we're going to have some fun tonight.
Q. What do you remember from last time you were here, Michael, a long time ago?
MICHAEL CHANG: Yeah, I mean, obviously a lot of things have changed. It's been quite some time since I played here in New Haven. I do know that I remember back in the day when it was in Stratton Mountain before coming here.
But, you know, I think being in the timing that it is, it's pretty crucial I think for a lot of the players to really kind of get their last-minute preparations in before going to the Open.
Obviously it makes it pretty convenient that it's really just a hop, skip and a jump away from New York. Conditions are very similar. So, you know, for the players to get some confidence, have similar, you know, courts, balls, it just gives them a great tune-up going to play at the Open, so...
Q. You played one time when it was here in New Haven?
MICHAEL CHANG: No, I played a few times. I played a few times. I think I did okay. I think one year I might have -- I don't know, one year I might have lost in the finals one year, if I remember correctly.
But, yeah, I mean, it was a great stop. You know, it was relaxing for the players. I know the tournament director and staff were always trying to make it, you know, very enticing for all the players to come here and play.
Before it was competing also with Indianapolis, I remember. I think I only played Indy once. I always came here in New Haven to play. So, you know, I enjoyed it.
Q. Michael, does James keep telling you this is his town?
MICHAEL CHANG: I keep hearing that. James hasn't told me that. I'm sure the first forehand winner that I see tonight, it will be a reminder that it's his town (smiling).
You know, I mean, I think James has a lot of support wherever he goes, to be honest with you. James is a great champion. He's done so well in his career. Now he's got, you know, another book out. Obviously well-liked and well-respected out on tour.
It won't surprise me anywhere that I see James, anywhere I play him, I know he's going to get a lot of crowd support, with the only exception maybe of Hong Kong or Beijing or Shanghai, maybe there will be a little bit more for me (smiling).
Q. Just buttering you up there, James?
JAMES BLAKE: Definitely. I'm very nervous now. He's saying way too many nice things about me before he goes out and beats me.
ANNE WORCESTER: Andy Roddick is nowhere near this nice to you.
JAMES BLAKE: No, no, we need to replace him with Michael all the time. Makes me feel better.
ANNE WORCESTER: Did you hear what Andy's quote was when he had to withdraw from tomorrow night?
JAMES BLAKE: I'm guessing it was something mean to me.
ANNE WORCESTER: He said, I will definitely be back because I have to prove to James Blake he is not the best tennis player in Connecticut.
JAMES BLAKE: I'll get him. I'll get him here in Connecticut. He might have the edge in Austin, but I'll get him here.
Q. Michael, why do stuff like this? Do you enjoy staying active? Is it good to interact with the fans?
MICHAEL CHANG: I mean, to be honest with you, I still enjoy it. I think, you know, all the guys that have played out on tour, many years, if given the opportunity and they're healthy, I think all the guys jump at the opportunity to be out there playing, out on stage in front of, you know, people that are excited, getting another chance to play against your peers.
My wife always jokes with me that every time I go and I play in a champion's event she laughs, because you guys will sit around and talk about your glory days and stuff. It's fun.
You know, I'm seeing more of my contemporaries now on tour through playing and then also so many of them are coaching now. So it's nice to be able to get out there and compete and play.
I don't think that any professional tennis player ever loses the passion and love for competing, to be honest with you. I think everybody will tell you that that was the easy part, to be able to go out there and be excited for matches, to have a crowd, you know, in the matches and supporting and clapping and cheering, that was the easy part. The hard part was all, you know, backstage preparation, doing the hard work on the practice courts and in the gym, the fitness, all of that stuff.
But the playing part has always been fun. You know, that has never wavered for me.
Q. Michael, how connected have you stayed with the game?
MICHAEL CHANG: I'm very connected now because I've been coaching Kei Nishikori for the past three and a half years. So I'm pretty much in tune to what's going on on the ATP Tour, probably even maybe more so than a lot of guys in this room, because I'm there in the locker room, I hear a lot of ins-and-outs. Obviously I'm doing a lot of scouting for Kei, trying to help him excel, become a better player and get to the next levels. So I'm very involved in the game, you know, will continue to be.
Q. James, you come back each year. What is it like to be back here? And you have the book to talk about, a few extra things to do this time around?
JAMES BLAKE: Yeah, it always fun. I was just here in Connecticut a couple weeks ago for vacation with my family. Love being here. Love getting to see my mom is still around. She'll be out watching tonight. I just love the atmosphere here.
It was just, you know, something special when I got to play here when it was a men's event. Now to come back and be part of it as a legends event, need to thank Anne for having a legends event here to make it so I can keep on living my dream, and keep playing, where it is just 20 minutes from where I grew up.
Q. (Question regarding the J Block.)
JAMES BLAKE: Had a couple friends send me pictures of the old J Block shirts. It's vintage. Now it's vintage clothing it's been so long since those were actually used. And they sent them with a picture of them on their kids now. Back then, there were kids, I was a kid, before they had real jobs and stuff. Now they've all grown up and had kids.
Now it's just so fun to think back to those memories, and now come out there and maybe some of their kids will come out and watch and be cheering. I still don't think they'll be quite as raucous was the original J Block.
It will be fun. I always love the support I get when I get here.
Q. Did it feel good to put the book together?
JAMES BLAKE: It did feel good to put it together. It was something that was inspired by my incident with the New York Police Department a couple years ago. I want to use the voice that I have to help others in similar situations that don't have a voice, and also to highlight and promote the fact that there's a lot of athletes doing positive things in the world, especially tennis players. That's the ones I know well. So there are quite a few stories of tennis players that have been inspirational to me and hopefully to many others from the very well-known like Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova, to the lesser known like Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi and Amir Hadad who played together at Wimbledon and at the US Open, both facing death threats, because it was a Pakistani Muslim and an Israeli Jew. To kind of bridge those religious gaps and to be able to play sport and bring people together in that way, I want to show there are people doing things that can be highlighted more so, that they have a social conscience and they're more than just someone who can hit a ball over a net, shoot a basketball in a hoop or throw a football.
It's something I've been thinking about for a while and I was lucky enough for Harper Collins to take an interest in it and put it together. It was fun. Made me feel like I was back in school at times, doing research, doing some interviews and stuff. Very different from my first book.
But it was something for me that was a pretty unique experience. I was very thankful that I got the opportunity to do it. Extremely thankful anyone wants to read anything I have to write.
Q. Are you going to read it, Michael?
MICHAEL CHANG: Sure, why not (smiling)?
Q. James, being from Fairfield, there's a lot going on with the little league team. Are you paying any attention to that?
JAMES BLAKE: Yeah, I saw a little bit of the game the other day. Down early, got back with a ton of runs. I was happy to see that.
It's amazing. I was talking to some of my friends about it, how they keep having good teams. Something in the water in Fairfield? I don't know. Or good coaching. It's amazing you have this kind of connection to a town and they keep doing well in the Little League World Series.
I'm so happy for those kids, the ones that won it years back, seeing the parade, seeing them being superstars when they go back to middle school. Such a cool thought to have for those kids and something they will never forget.
You see Major League Baseball players that still back to their Little League World Series accomplishments. That's something that's pretty special that they'll never forget. I'm proud of those kids from Fairfield.
Q. Michael, is it fun to do the coaching aspect of the sport? Is it as much fun? Is it just a different perspective for you?
MICHAEL CHANG: Yeah, it's fun when your player's winning. You know, certainly a lot easier to take. It's completely different, to be honest with you. Obviously you're out there and you're used to being out there on the tennis court. Obviously as a coach you're out there on the sidelines. All your work is done. There's nothing you can really do out there other than to cheer for your player, try to encourage them. So it's a different ballgame from there.
You know, it's nice to be able to see when everything comes together. You put in all the hard work, you see that really transpire out there on the work. You see your player improving, implementing the things that you've been working on out on the practice courts.
But then the flipside, you know, it's frustrating, too, when you're watching a match and you see, you know, for example a particular pattern taking place, and it's very obvious to me but maybe not very obvious to Kei. He doesn't pick it up.
So, you know, I think sometimes it's much easier to be able to dissect matches that you're watching rather than in comparison to actually when you're playing it. So that's something that is tough, you know, to be kind of in a situation, kind of to deal with.
It's kind of funny because there's been some talk about coaching during matches and stuff. They were saying, Would you prefer to have coaching? It's weird because as a player I would never want there to be coaching because I'm very much a thinking player, so I like to be able to figure out my own problems and my own situations, and I want my opponent to be able to figure out those things by themselves.
As a even coach, it's interesting, because I actually have the other mentality. I actually would prefer for there to be coaching. There are times I've had where Kei was playing, he was maybe struggling, and for one reason or another a rain delay or something happened, he came off the court, I was allowed to talk with him. Those five or ten minutes completely turned around a match. So in that aspect, I feel like it's nice to be able to give a little bit of insight into what's going on if your player's not quite catching it.
You know, there's positives and negatives. But I have enjoyed the coaching part. It has been fun to be able to try to make a difference in Kei's game, try to encourage him to become better and better. Yeah, it's been good.
Q. Because you were a thinking, strategic type of player, did you figure you were going to go into coaching? Did it kind of fall into place for you?
MICHAEL CHANG: It kind of fell into place. I certainly was not looking for a coaching position at the time. But I felt like this was really kind of a unique opportunity because, you know, when Kei had asked me to think about the possibility of working with him, there had been so few Asian men that had done well out on tour. Asian women have done pretty well, obviously Li Na being the most well-known in that aspect. Other than myself and Paradorn Srichaphan that was in the top 10 briefly, there are no other players that have broken into the top 10. At the time I was working with Kei, he was around 15, 17 in the world, was there for a couple years, was struggling to break into the top 10.
I felt like, Hey, this might be an opportunity to make a difference. Might be an opportunity to help a young, talented player really excel, and hopefully try to reach his full potential. You know, I think it's nice to be a part of that.
I've had different opportunities to work with some younger players that are close to me in my area where I live. It's always fun to see young players improve. I think when you've been out on tour, you're able to give a little bit of expertise, give a little bit of insight to make that process of improvement that much faster, you know, it's good to be a part of.
Q. (Question about Nishikori's seeding.)
MICHAEL CHANG: Obviously first things first. We're looking at trying to resolve his injury, so we're waiting right now for some other tests to come back, to see exactly the extent of it.
Unfortunately it comes at a very tough time. US Open is a tournament that Kei has done very, very well at over the past few years. But, you know, hopefully in the long run he'll get the treatment and everything that he needs so that his wrist is completely healed and he won't have to deal any more with future wrist problems and issues. And at the same time hopefully this layoff will make him even more hungry to be able to get back to playing his best tennis.
You know, I think Kei is an incredibly talented player. I've always told him that his best tennis is still ahead of him. I still believe that.
But first things first. You got to get healthy. Unfortunately for a lot of the men on the ATP Tour, it's a struggle right now, especially for some of the guys in the top 10.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports