March 15, 1997
INDIAN WELLS, CALIFORNIA
JOE LYNCH: Michael Chang wins his ninth consecutive match in the Newsweek Champions Cup and will be shooting for his third title tomorrow against Bohdan Ulihrach who he has never met before. Also has an overall nine-match winning streak this year starting with a title at Memphis. First question, please.
Q. Michael, why was this match with Muster so different than the others?
MICHAEL CHANG: Why was it, I'm sorry?
Q. Different? How was it different, other than the fact that you won?
MICHAEL CHANG: Well, that's not different. That's a good thing to say. I think this match is very different in many regards. I think particularly when the top guys go against each other, there's always going to be a little bit more intensity. I think particularly with Thomas. Thomas never comes on the court without that intensity. Obviously in a semifinal match, as big a tournament as this, he's going to be pumped. I knew that, and I think for me I knew that I had to really come out there and be pumped as well. I think just the intensity is a lot higher for some reason because we know really what we're up against.
Q. On court after the match, you said that you felt maybe you had a mental block against him in the past. Is that true?
MICHAEL CHANG: Yeah, I did. I think in the past I kind of felt in certain regards, you know, he was stronger than I was. I think a lot of times maybe when you get into the long points or the grinding points, sometimes he was able to kind of wear me down a little bit, more so than he was tired. That becomes a pretty important factor. Obviously in the latter stages of a match or if you're playing consecutive points like that. It was good to come through today. A good confidence booster. Hopefully each time I go out and play Thomas from here on out, I really don't have that. I'll go out there with confidence, he's human, I can go out there and beat him, regardless of the record and stuff. Thomas has always been a great competitor and he always will be. That's typical of Thomas.
Q. When you go up a break in the second set, did you feel that you let off a little bit, took your foot off the accelerator? Up till then you were very aggressive, then became a little passive.
MICHAEL CHANG: I don't know if I necessarily became a little bit passive. I think for me, I think there was a fine balance there. I really didn't want to become overly aggressive and start forcing shots. I didn't want errors to creep into my game. At the same time I still didn't want to play defensive tennis against Thomas. If you go out and play defensively against Thomas, you'll run like this and lose (indicating). When he's dictating the points and stuff, the majority of the time he's going to come out on top. I think there was a bit of a fine balance there. Maybe a particular time there should have been -- I should have been a little bit more aggressive. All in all, just to be able to kind of fight through that second set I think was pretty crucial.
Q. Mike, you talk about how the top guys go against each other, there's an intensity. How do you keep this going against somebody you've never even seen?
MICHAEL CHANG: For me, I think part of it is being in a final. Part of it also is realizing although Bohdan is not a Top 10 guy at this particular time, he's had great results. You cannot look past his results this week. You can only look past his results in the past. When you take that into consideration, you know how dangerous a player he can be. Having that mentality, I know that each time I step out on the court, in this kind of field or in any kind of field, in men's tennis because of the depth today, I've got to be ready. I've got to come out and play my best tennis in order to come out on top. If you're coming out and you wake up on the wrong side of the bed, that can really mean the difference between losing in the first round or winning, regardless. First round, finals, doesn't matter. Mentality, attitude's got to be good.
Q. Tactically are you going to approach the game differently tomorrow than to the one today?
MICHAEL CHANG: I think I'm just going to go out there and play my style of tennis. I felt like today I was able to do that. I was able to go out there and attack when the opportunity was there, take advantage of certain opportunities, be able to come in and knock off a few volleys and stuff. I think that's really my style of tennis. I don't feel like I should really change anything unless something is just absolutely not working and I'm just getting munched out there. I'm going to go out there with my basic game plan and my best game out there tomorrow.
Q. Thomas said, "The way you beat Michael Chang is to just knock him off the court, just overpower him." I kind of thought that you got past that about two years ago. Is that still your reputation?
MICHAEL CHANG: I knew that Thomas had that mentality. I knew in the past he felt like he was stronger than I was. But today I didn't let that happen. I didn't have that mentality. I just felt like -- I really felt like the Lord was with me when I went out there and had that attitude, a certain focus of saying, "Regardless if the guy is stronger or regardless if the guy is bigger, I can still go out there and win, I can still go out there and beat a guy who's got a better record." I know the way a lot of the guys think. I know that Thomas has that mentality coming in to play against me. It's important I combat that and go out there with the attitude, "You come out with your strength, I'll come out with mine." I feel it was important today to have that perspective.
Q. Has anybody even told you anything about Ulihrach? Do you know anything about him?
MICHAEL CHANG: I know Bohdan is a great claycourt player. I know he's had good results in the past. I know he's beaten Pete before this week. I think that says a lot. He's been playing some tough tennis over the past couple years, really been making his move. I watched him play a little bit this week. He's playing some tough tennis. He's not making a whole lot of errors. He's playing solid from the ground. Tomorrow is not going to be an easy match. For the most part, I'm definitely looking forward to it.
Q. The other day you said the control in your serve was sort of a day-to-day thing. Today you had four double-faults, including two in a row. Is that a bad performance for you, and can you talk about control in your serve? Is it a matter of technique, technical matters, or more of a feel?
MICHAEL CHANG: I think it's a little bit of both. I think definitely part of it is a little bit of technical, a little bit of concentration. I think my double-faults this match didn't come at great times, but fortunately on that particular game I think I was able to come through on that game. I think I had a double-fault in the tiebreaker, but you know that they're going to come every now and then. Hopefully they don't come at very crucial times. Maybe if you're up 40-Love or something like that, then you don't really mind. The serve is always an important part of the game. It is important to be able to place your serve well, whether it's a first serve or a second serve. I know particularly today, because I know Thomas is going to run around his backhand to hit forehands, if I can squeeze him a little bit, catch him when he's moving, it will set up the point for me.
Q. When you were watching Ulihrach this week, was that just happenstance, Michael, or were you watching him because you had a thought you might be playing him?
MICHAEL CHANG: I was watching him because he was beating Pete Sampras. I think everyone was watching that. You always take a little bit of interest in who's playing well, always interesting matches. Definitely, that was one of them for this week. I don't think I really go out with the mentality that I'm necessarily going to play somebody because it's so far down the road. Basically for me, I try to take things match by match and point by point and not look any farther than that.
Q. Did the fact that you had such an easy match against Pioline, did that help you for today?
MICHAEL CHANG: Physically, I think it did. I know whenever I played against Thomas it's going to be a physical match. Whether it's indoor, whether it's outdoor, it doesn't matter. If the conditions are very cool, it doesn't matter. I know it's going to be a physical match. I think it was nice to be able to have a relatively fast match last night, and at the same time it was pretty cool. I think if I started to get -- if the match started later or something, if I had a really long three-setter, physically I would have been a little tired coming into this match, probably wouldn't be able to perform as well today.
Q. Do you find it remarkable that you should be playing an unseeded player for the second straight year in the finals of this tournament?
MICHAEL CHANG: Not necessarily. I think it just goes to show, in a sense, the depth of men's tennis. I don't think you can expect every seed to come through and fit where they're supposed to place. I think you can ask any of the top guys, they know they can't take anybody for granted. Even Pete's the No. 1 player in the world. You can ask him that and he knows that. He knows everybody is tough, and everybody is. I think the game maybe 15 years ago, probably you could say, "You can kind of go by the first few rounds and not really worry about the top seeds losing." But in this day and age of tennis, you can't do that.
JOE LYNCH: Anything else for Michael? Thank you. See you back here tomorrow.
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