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March 16, 1997

Michael Chang


JOE LYNCH: Michael successfully defends his title here at the Newsweek Champions Cup. Sixth career Mercedes Super 9 title, improves to 17-2 in the year heading into the Lipton.

Q. Upset it didn't go five?

MICHAEL CHANG: No, absolutely not. Today was a tough match. I mean, I think that was pretty evident. I think this being the first time I played against Bohdan, I kind of went out there with a little bit of a raw mentality. I know he's had some great results on clay. I think up to this point, maybe his best surface is probably clay. I figured, most claycourters, they hit with a little more topspin, maybe on a hardcourt it's going to give me a little more time to set up for my shots. He didn't do that at all. He came out. He hits pretty flat. When he first came out, he was hitting unbelievable. We were trading groundstrokes, and all of a sudden he ripped a backhand down-the-line winner just from nowhere. I just kind of stood there. I really didn't know how to go about doing things. I was able to kind of, you know, hang in there and fight my way through. I think as the match went on, I started to see a few cracks and tried to exploit those a little bit. I think I was able to just kind of change the match around a little bit. But in the beginning, he was just playing some incredible tennis.

Q. What were those cracks?

MICHAEL CHANG: I think I'll probably save those till I retire. Bohdan is only 22 years old. If I tell -- I'm sure he's going to read the paper tomorrow.

Q. No, he's leaving tonight.

MICHAEL CHANG: These guys are smart. Obviously things that they can work on, they're going to. The first set, he just didn't miss a ball. I was kind of wondering, taking a look to see where he's standing. He was standing inside the baseline, taking the ball early. It just really caught me off guard. I felt like I had to press a little bit. I started making errors. That's not the way that I wanted to play. I just tried to be a little more patient. I think I started to serve a little more better, get a few more free points on my serve, which definitely helped out quite a bit.

Q. Michael, this sort of looked like, before yesterday's match, they always said the NFC Championship is the real Super Bowl. It looked like the semifinal between you and Muster was the real championship. We were discussing that. Was there any danger after you play the No. 2 guy in the world where you guys are right together, then going down to a 43, that you may not play your best?

MICHAEL CHANG: I don't think that's necessarily the case. I don't feel like I had any kind of letdown at all. I came out. I think I was feeling a little bit from yesterday, but generally speaking, I was feeling okay. Once I saw those first few shots, I said, "I better get my act together, really getting into this match. It's not a match that I can really play my way into." Sometimes you get into that because when you go out on the court, you haven't played somebody, maybe you're a little tentative. You don't know what to try, you don't know how to go about finding their strengths and weaknesses. Bohdan didn't let me do that. Really took me a good two sets to really figure out his game and to be able to see, "He's killing me with a backhand down the line." I don't think when you've been on the Tour for ten years that you can necessarily have a letdown because you know -- if you're going to win a tournament like this, you've got to beat top guys consecutively in many instances. You can't afford to have letdowns. I think if I had a letdown today, I wouldn't have been able to win, because Bohdan was playing some great tennis. Obviously playing great tennis all week.

Q. When someone is playing that well against you, as he did in the first set, is it a question of, "Gosh, let's hope he can't keep it up," or do you have to take some positive steps yourself to try and prevent him from playing that way?

MICHAEL CHANG: I think my mentality before was to be able to kind of hang in there and just hope that he doesn't keep it up. But I think nowadays in men's tennis you can't do that because guys keep it up. You've got to find ways to get them out of their comfort zone. Today I was thinking that I could go out there and really hit with him and outhit him, be able to run down a few more balls, maybe force some errors. That didn't happen because I didn't get a chance to run down too many balls. So I tried a few shots up high. He ripped those for winners. I said, "Okay, enough of that, no more of that." I felt like I had to kind of be patient but aggressive. I had to be able to move him around a little bit more just to kind of get him out of his comfort zone a little bit just to force some errors, maybe some short balls, maybe to be able to attack off of those. I mean, when you play these guys, you have to figure out a way to be able to do that.

Q. Michael, no match is over until the final point. Was there a time when you felt, "I've turned this around, got it under control"?

MICHAEL CHANG: Absolutely not. I think, you know, this match was really, really close, I think it's fair to say. We had a lot of games where he had opportunities to break him. I think even in the first set, I had a lot of games on his serve where I was 30-All, wasn't able to get the break. He had opportunities where he was up Love-30 or he had a couple breakpoints and wasn't able to close out the game. I knew that in my mind. Given a choice, I would prefer to close it out when he was serving instead of having the pressure of serving well in order to close it out. I didn't feel like I had the match at any stage until the final forehand went wide.

Q. Granted you didn't have a letdown, but do you think you had the fiery intensity you had against Muster?

MICHAEL CHANG: I think maybe not quite as much, to be honest with you. I think against Thomas maybe I've got to come out a little bit more fired up. I think today, because I didn't know quite what to expect, maybe the mentality was a little bit different. But today the style was different, too. I kind of felt like in certain regards maybe I wasn't quite as sharp as yesterday, but then I also realized today, looking back at it, it's a totally different style. Thomas is hitting a lot of topspin, giving me an opportunity to set up for shots. Bohdan hits flat. The ball instead of being up here yesterday, the ball was down here (indicating). I think in some instances, it kind of threw me off a little bit, took me a while to kind of get used to his ball because he was hitting pretty flat and pretty hard at the same time.

Q. Michael, because an analysis of your opponent is so important to your match preparation, do you sometimes feel more vulnerable when you're playing someone like this guy, even though he's ranked so much lower?

MICHAEL CHANG: Sometimes I do. I think particularly if they're able to come out and get off to a good start. Sometimes you play guys that your style just suits them really well. Unfortunately, everybody has that. I never like to be in a situation where it takes me a set to figure out what's going on, a set to figure out where his strengths are, what his weaknesses are, where he's hurting me. I don't like to do that. That's part of the Tour. That's many reasons why a lot of these up and coming players, they're so talented, they can really hurt guys in the early rounds. I think that's pretty evident of this week.

Q. Given that, you said earlier that you didn't even feel comfortable till the second set, do you think the fact that this was best-of-five gave you some breathing room?

MICHAEL CHANG: A little bit. I would definitely say so. You know, I feel like even if I was down two sets, I felt like I was -- like I had a chance. But, you know, obviously if they get off to a really good start, it's only two out of three, basically history. It's nice to be able to have a little bit of that comfort. But then again, if you're up two sets, you're thinking, "Why can't it be two out of three?" It depends on how you look at it. Today it was nice to be able to know it was three out of five.

Q. Michael, in the second set, you were tied 1-1 and he hit a short lob, you came up to the net. You just killed it. After that you didn't look back. Was that one of the turning points? You hit that ball halfway to LA. It seemed that that got you going.

MICHAEL CHANG: No. I just wanted to make sure I put it away (laughter). I don't know. I mean, I think under that kind of situation, if you have it, you just take advantage of it. I think it was -- maybe it affected Bohdan a little bit. I don't know I don't know. With a guy like Pete, for example, when he's able to hit his flying overhead shot, he likes to kind of make a statement. Maybe I don't get a chance to do that very often, so maybe that's my small version of it.

Q. In retrospect, in a week where so many good players went out so early, you end up as the champion, does that make it extra special in a way that you sort of survived all this confusion that happened in this tournament?

MICHAEL CHANG: I think it's great just to be able to survive. I think you have tournaments where guys are going to get upset, you have tournaments where they're not. I don't think you can really -- each week you can't really go out there with the expectation, "Seeds are going to come through." Everyone is tough. I have to admit, I was a little nervous playing the noon match against Rosset. Three Americans played at noon and all three lost. I was thinking to myself, "Why are they putting me at noon?" Things worked out. It worked out okay, worked out well.

Q. In view of your Christian ethic, I'm surprised to see you wearing a T-shirt that says "no mercy."

MICHAEL CHANG: On the tennis court, absolutely not. On the tennis court, absolutely no mercy. I think that overhead says it right there. I think off the court, definitely. On the court, try to beat the guy as bad as I can. I'm sure the guys are out there doing the same. If they're going to beat me 0-0, they'll take advantage of it.

Q. Speaking of off the court, you said you've been spending your spare time fishing. Nobody has bothered to ask you, have you caught anything?

MICHAEL CHANG: I have, actually. You guys aren't going to believe me because these are all fish stories. I did have a fish that was about five or six pounds on.

Q. Yeah.

MICHAEL CHANG: That's what I'm saying (laughter). I was about to go down and grab it, and for some reason he got off the hook.

Q. Where was this?

MICHAEL CHANG: This was in PGA. It was funny, because my mom's birthday was earlier this week, March 6th, before this tournament. When I went into this one place to buy her a birthday present, I had this one section for fishing, I kind of took note of this little thing, it says a fishermen's creed, early to bed, early to rise, fish all day, make up lies. I don't know. I figured somebody would ask me about my fishing. I'm going to go back and get him after this.

Q. Do they stock those lakes?

MICHAEL CHANG: They stock all the lakes, all the golf course lakes. They stock them to keep them healthy.

Q. Keep the algae out?

MICHAEL CHANG: Yes. Actually, they have some huge Grass Carp, caught one 45, 50 pounds. When they mow the lawn, the grass goes in the water, you see the Carp.

Q. What do you use as bait?

MICHAEL CHANG: I use grass (laughter). For those fish, I use grass. They have absolutely no endurance, though. You put like a little piece of grass, make it a little ball, cast it out. They're really sensitive to people. Any kind of movement along the shoreline, they're off. They don't want any part of that. I cast the line out. The grass floats. There's a little hook inside of it. I kind of stay low, because they can see you. Sometimes they come up, pretty soon they come up and take kind of suck it in (indicating). I set the hook, and a huge, huge splash and they take off for 15 yards like that, then they're tired. No endurance, just really tired. It's just fun to be able to catch something that big. It depends on the species.

Q. Are you catch and release?

MICHAEL CHANG: Catch and release.

Q. Davis Cup, in Memphis you said that your people were talking to USTA about playing. It didn't happen.

MICHAEL CHANG: Who was talking to USTA?

Q. Your people, Carl or you. You were talking about playing Davis Cup.

MICHAEL CHANG: I wasn't talking to the USTA; I was talking to Gully about it.

Q. He's USTA.

MICHAEL CHANG: Well, to be quite honest with you, it would have been really nice to play the tie in Newport Beach. Growing up, I spent a lot of time playing in southern California. Obviously it would have been fun to play. In fact, the tie against Mexico last year in Carlsbad was a lot of fun. Have a lot of family and friends come out. Gully and I were just kind of looking at my schedule. It would be really difficult to play Davis Cup this particular tie. I have a lot of obligations the following week in Hong Kong. I think besides that, I think all the players know that whenever you come from a Davis Cup tie and you have to travel overseas, it's very difficult to recover. A lot of guys end up losing first round. I knew if I were to get to Hong Kong late, get in Tuesday, play Wednesday, matches are tough. With that aspect, I'd have to stay a couple extra days in Hong Kong to take care of a lot of other things. That would kind of impede preparation as far as the claycourt season because I'm not playing Tokyo this year, for the specific reason of preparing a little bit early for the French. We kind of looked at it that way. As far as player-wise, it worked out okay that Courier and Agassi are playing.

Q. You successfully defended your championship here. Now you join Jimmy Connors as the only other player to win this three times. What factors go into making this such a special stop on the Tour for you?

MICHAEL CHANG: I think part of it is I feel comfortable here. The people are great, the facility is great. It's a relaxing place. I think a lot of people come here because they -- the outside people, the public, they come here to enjoy great tennis. At the same time, they know it's a great place to come to. You can play golf, relax, play tennis, on top of that watch some great matches. For me, it just works out well. I can do a bit of fishing, relax, come out here and play some good tennis. This particular week, the Lord just really blessed me. On top of that, it was just a great week.

Q. Speaking of fish, this was the first all Pices men's final.

JOE LYNCH: We'll end it on that. Thank you.

End of FastScripts....

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