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March 13, 1997

Michael Chang


GREG SHARKO: Michael advances to the quarterfinals here at the Newsweek Champions Cup for the sixth time. Improves his overall record here to 24 and 6, and he'll play Cedric Pioline in the quarterfinals tomorrow. He leads Pioline 3-0 lifetime. First question for Michael.

Q. The guy seemed to put himself into trouble by missing his first serve towards the end, Michael. Is that your perception or not?

MICHAEL CHANG: The problem is, he gets himself out of trouble with a big serve, too much I think he relies heavily on first serve, and also hitting big forehands. Obviously he's got to go for his shots. If he's going to miss them, he's going to get himself in a little bit of trouble. I always have a lot of tough matches with Marc. I think for some reason he's able to play some really good tennis against me, overall play pretty solid.

Q. Did you play him in Barcelona?

MICHAEL CHANG: No, I did not.

Q. What was different? He's had the better success on the hardcourts. What was different today?

MICHAEL CHANG: I think for one I was able to return serve well. He was clocking them in pretty consistently around 120, in the 120s. I was able to get them back. On top of that, I was able to serve pretty well today, I thought. You get a few free points here and there. That's pretty important with a guy who is going to take a few chances. If he's able to really get his forehand going, you know, he can definitely be very, very tough to play.

Q. A lot of players have been saying that the balls fly here because of the hot air. Pete says that bothers him, Goran said the same. Is that something that really doesn't take its toll on your style of game?

MICHAEL CHANG: To be honest with you, I felt like the balls were flying a little bit more so than in previous years. I noticed the balls are a little bit harder, definitely they are flying a little bit. I think coming here a few days early, just to get used to the conditions, the balls and stuff, probably helped out.

Q. Do you like to play here, Michael?

MICHAEL CHANG: I do. I think all the players like to play here. They really do a great job, make it a wonderful place to come and play. The facilities are great on top of that. I think just to be able to get so many people from so many different parts of the world to come to watch this event I think is pretty amazing. Charlie does a great job. It is a nice place to come to. Pretty relaxing, I'm able to play some good tennis, go back and relax. A lot of guys go out and golf a little bit. I cast my line, go fishing a little bit.

Q. Where?

MICHAEL CHANG: It's pretty kicked back.

Q. Where do you go fishing?

MICHAEL CHANG: People go golfing, the golf course. I go fishing on the golf course.

Q. Michael, Pete was talking yesterday about comfort level at the tournament. I'm wondering, what makes you comfortable at a tournament? I imagine how well you're playing has something to do with it, what historically you've done at a tournament, but what else?

MICHAEL CHANG: I think part of it is being in a familiar setting. Having good results and coming to a place that you really enjoy, I think that's first and foremost. I think that for me just seems to make things pretty easy. My only exception to that is maybe Memphis. Memphis is a place where I really love to go. I feel comfortable there. Didn't have much success there till this year, but other than that, I think a lot of it is the surroundings and the people. I think the people play a pretty important role as far as the tournament goes. A setting like this suits me pretty well.

Q. And regarding conditions, apart from the balls that sometimes change from tournament to tournament, don't players know generally that when you play in dry air that they might carry, if you play somewhere where it's humid, that that affects the ball? Don't you all know that?

MICHAEL CHANG: Not necessarily. The reason being is that, you know, each year is a little bit different because sometimes maybe a tournament director might hear that the court was too fast, so they purposely the following year try to make it a little bit slower, they try to put a little bit more sand in the court, try to change the balls a little bit. It really depends on the situation. That's not necessarily the case. I think particularly in places where the weather will fluctuate a little bit, that will also play a bit of a factor.

Q. Something like that, obviously you can say if you lose, it's an excuse. Is it a valid thing? Don't you have to adjust to conditions as the thing goes along?

MICHAEL CHANG: Yeah, I think that's part of being a professional. I think, you know, generally speaking, everybody has to deal with the same situations. If some guy is playing in a controlled environment and I have to play under fluctuating conditions, I'm going to complain a little bit. But everyone's in the same boat. There's no question about that. Maybe some players are able to adapt to the situation a little bit better than others. For me, I try to go out and make the best of it, try to go out there with the right equipment, the right tensions and stuff like that, go out there prepared. If conditions change, send a racquet to Carl saying, "I need to change things up a little bit." I feel like for me you have to be adaptable.

Q. Michael, last month John McEnroe was asked to talk about your serve. He said he didn't feel it was all that much better than it had been in the past.

MICHAEL CHANG: Since when?

Q. In the past. He just said he didn't feel it was that much better. I could go into detail, but I'd rather hear from you your assessment. Is your serve faster, more controlled, more aces, more double-faults? What's your assessment of your serve?

MICHAEL CHANG: I think the last time I played John was actually probably 1992. That was at the US Open. That wasn't all that long ago. I did play him in Berkeley. He beat me in the first one, so maybe at that time he was saying my serve hadn't improved all that much. I don't really know what to say to that.

Q. Forget John. Can you just give an assessment of your own serve in the past year or two?

MICHAEL CHANG: I think it's improved tremendously, to be honest with you. I feel like no longer is it just a way of starting a point for me. I'm going out there, stepping up to the line, trying to win a point off my first serve, whether it's an ace or a service winner, it really doesn't matter. I'm definitely using that as a weapon. It's a shot I concentrate on, a shot that I try to work at when I'm out there practicing.

Q. Has the velocity moved up, Michael?

MICHAEL CHANG: I think the velocity has moved up considerably. Memphis was actually good for me, serving-wise. I think it's important to be able to have velocity. On top of that, to be able to complement that with accuracy makes for a great combination.

Q. Today it seemed like you had 117, then your next first serve would be in the 90s.

MICHAEL CHANG: It's a change-up. For me, to be able to slide them out wide, pop one in hard, just to mix things up so that the guy doesn't think I'm going to be serving the same serve every time. I'd be happy serving 90 miles per hour if it were an ace or service winner every time, versus 120 miles per hour and a guy clocking the return back for a winner.

Q. Michael, there are no longer any seeds in the top half of the draw here. Are you getting the feeling that your most demanding match may be in the semifinals?

MICHAEL CHANG: No. I don't look at it that way. It's a little too far for me. I think to kind of give you a taste of the depth of men's tennis, I don't think you can take anybody lightly. This tournament, you look at the beginning of the week, the field that it has in many instances is a small Grand Slam tournament. You can't take anybody lightly, seeded or not.

Q. Did you ever win a match 6-Love, 6-Love, Michael?

MICHAEL CHANG: I did once against John Fitzgerald in Tokyo. It was funny because I was so pumped up for that match because the week prior we'd been practicing together. He was killing me, he was killing me in practice. I liked going out there and playing. I was so pumped because I felt like there was really a danger of me losing this match. I was up like 6-Love, 5-Love, he walks over to the side. He's like, "I thought you were my mate." It was pretty funny. I'm sure, given the chance, he would do the same. Lendl was ragging on him in the locker room when he walked in. It was pretty funny.

Q. Going back to the condition thing, it seems like there's hardly a week when an assortment of players come in and say, "The balls are too fast, the court is too slow." Is it that you're all perfectionists? Is there a perfect place?

MICHAEL CHANG: We all want conditions to suit us. I think it's fair to say under different weeks you're going to have different players coming up and saying conditions maybe don't suit them. I'll give an example. Maybe in a tournament like Wimbledon, for example, you'll hear from some of the baseliners, they want to slow things up a little bit. Maybe on some of the claycourt tournaments, serve and volleyers, we want to speed things up a little bit. I think that's pretty normal and expected. Tournament directors get a good feel for what a really good, ideal court is, where guys generally in the middle, if you want to serve and volley, you can do it successfully, if you want to play from the back, you can do it successfully. Many times it's great to be able to have a lot of tour directors that have been on the Tour and they know the conditions. Sometimes you can't really change them. Wimbledon, I don't think you can ever make slow.

Q. Michael, if I could just follow up, go back to the question of serves. You said you felt your velocity is stronger. Could you talk about your control compared to the past? Is it the same, greater, less?

MICHAEL CHANG: Unfortunately it kind of depends on the day. To be honest with you, it's something that I'm working on. I try to be a little bit more consistent on my serve. I have some days where I'm serving extremely well and some days where my percentage really drops. It is something that I'm trying to solidify, to be able to go out there and have that serve work for me each time I step up to the line. I think as far as accuracy, it has improved. I like to be able to think that way. I know that's going to get better.

Q. Michael, even though this is a hardcourt tournament, do you think there's something about either the place or the conditions that reward baseliners or players with more patience?

MICHAEL CHANG: Any particular reason for that?

Q. Just the difficulty that serve and volleyers, of the ones who have left, what they're particularly complaining about?

MICHAEL CHANG: To be honest, coming into this week, I think the players were honestly saying the surface was going to favor the serve and volleyers because the conditions are fast, the balls are pretty hard. That would favor a big server to be quite honest with you. Why at this stage it's kind of gone the other way, I really don't know.

Q. Michael, it seems like every year, almost every Davis Cup title, it's a kind of disconnect, you don't have the right players, the right team, someone is disappointed. Obviously with the one coming up in Newport Beach, you grew up so close to there, would have been great if you could have played, but you had other commitments. What can be done to make the whole system better for America and American Davis Cup team?

MICHAEL CHANG: To be honest with you, I think that's been a question that the guys have been -- I think everyone has been asking for quite a long time. I think the most difficult thing about Davis Cup is scheduling. There's no question about that. The difficulty I think kind of comes into being able to sit the ITF and ATP Tour down and be able to come out with a schedule that everyone's happy with. I think in many instances you have selected events throughout the year where you kind of have a claycourt season, you have a grass court season, a hardcourt season, an indoor season. The thing that's tough about Davis Cup is where the Davis Cup slots fit in, it doesn't necessarily mean that it's going to be in that particular surface or in that particular location. In that instance, it is very difficult to prepare for Davis Cup. I don't know. I think a lot of guys have been talking about changing the scheduling around. I don't know how. I think that that would probably be the most ideal situation to make it better, at least for the American players, looking at it from our point of view.

Q. Would one solution maybe be going every other year with it?

MICHAEL CHANG: That is a possibility. I think still in that regard, there has to be some kind of area periodically throughout the year where you're able to play Davis Cup. To be quite honest with you, the guys tell me coming from Davis Cup, the next week is most difficult. Guys are coming in, playing Davis Cup, finishing on Sunday. They fly into their next destination, which many times is on another continent, technically getting in on Tuesday, playing Wednesday, from there playing each day out. There's no time to get used to anything: time change, balls, surroundings, court. Many times guys come in after Davis Cup and they lose first round. It's difficult. The Tour is difficult. I think given a situation, I don't know how, because there's always tournaments popping up somewhere, and players have a certain obligation to play a certain amount of tournaments in each particular category. Somehow we should be able to figure something out where guys are able to have a few more days off after Davis Cup to kind of prepare for the next event. I don't know. I don't know if there's ever going to be a resolve to that, but I think that's where it is, the ITF and ATP Tour have to come together as far as their own scheduling and be able to compromise in one way or another.

Q. Think you can repeat here, Michael?

MICHAEL CHANG: I think so.

Q. Planning on it?

MICHAEL CHANG: I plan on it. I always plan on leaving Monday each week. I just take things match by match, but definitely go out there with the faith that I'm going to be there on Sunday, winning the title.

Q. Speaking of repeating, if you were told you could win one more Grand Slam, just choose one of them, which one would you choose, Michael?

MICHAEL CHANG: I would choose Wimbledon. The reason being is that people don't think I can win it. I think in my life, I'd like to be able to be able to say to those people who look at me and they say, "You're too small, you don't have a big enough serve, you're not able to volley quite well enough, the court's too fast," I don't believe in all that. I kind of believe I can go out there and have the faith in God that I can go out and accomplish anything, whether it's winning Wimbledon, whether people think I can win it or not. That's been kind of characteristic of the way my career has been, the way my life has kind of been, to be able to go out there and prove people wrong.

Q. As a professional, very positive person, do you ever picture yourself out there on the last Sunday chatting with the Duchess?

MICHAEL CHANG: Absolutely. Been doing that since probably I was like seven years old.

Q. What was the conversation between you and the Duchess?

MICHAEL CHANG: We didn't have a conversation. All I know is I beat John McEnroe. When I was a little kid, I think all kids kind of go through this, USTA actually had a great commercial, there was a little boy in the park and he was pretending that he was playing -- he was both Agassi and Sampras playing a point, stuff like that, in the US Open. It's something I think a lot of kids do, including me. When I grew up, I was playing against a wall in the basement in Minnesota. I would play with a little sponge ball so I could hit it as hard as I wanted, wouldn't dent the wall, my parents wouldn't get mad. I was pretending I was playing a match. All the sets I won were 7-6. All the sets I lost, the guy killed me, 6-Love. Somehow or another, I was able to win it in a tight five-setter every time.

Q. In your fantasy you beat John?

MICHAEL CHANG: I beat John a few times, I beat Borg. I beat everybody, to be honest.

Q. Who killed you 6-Love?

MICHAEL CHANG: All the sets I lost, all those guys, McEnroe, Connors, Lendl, Borg, all those guys. That's part of being a kid, part of wanting to go out there and kind of live those dreams in a sense.

Q. When you won at the French, speaking of fantasy, Grand Slam victory, that was one of the most phantasmagoric ones in history.

MICHAEL CHANG: When I won the French, I didn't know what happened, to be honest with you. When you're that young, you dream of those things. When you're 17 years old, you're still technically very, very young. I walked off that court. I knew that I won, but I really didn't know. You don't know the significance at that age of what really went on, what really happened. I don't know if guys like Boris have felt that way winning Wimbledon and stuff. I know that was something that I felt.

Q. So somewhere, somehow before you end your career, do you want to hit one more Andrean serve?

MICHAEL CHANG: That's the only underhand serve I hit in my life. Andre used to hit it to me in the juniors, used to be a great shot. For me, it's the only time I hit it. Maybe in exhibition I hit it a couple times. I don't know. I don't really know in a sense what kind of overcame me. I thought, "Shot, I'm just popping the serve in, pretty soon he's going to crack it, I've got to change things up." I don't know. I just did it.

Q. Do you ever consider doing something special in terms of preparation to possibly win Wimbledon, like Ivan that year didn't play the clay, he just played on the grass?

MICHAEL CHANG: I think it depends on the situation, because the French is still a really special tournament for me. I think Ivan's situation is a little different. I think he realized that he was kind of approaching the end of his career, he accomplished so much, had Grand Slam titles. To be able to go out there and give it his all. To be honest with you, he really gave a valiant effort there. He played some great tennis in Queen's, beat Boris in the finals 2 and 3, just playing some phenomenal tennis. It just so happens sometimes things don't work out. At least I think Ivan, at this stage he can look back and say, "Although I didn't win Wimbledon, I gave it my hundred percent." At this point it's like, "Let's work on my golf game." I think maybe for me the situation is a little different at this point in time. Hopefully grass will become more and more of a natural thing for me, working on serving and volleying and stuff like that. Each year it's going to take a little bit of time, to be honest with you. My game is not naturally suited to a grass court. Each year I'm learning little by little. Knowledge can take you a long way.

Q. Given your conditioning and tenacity, do you ever wish you played before they had the 7-6 tiebreaker?

MICHAEL CHANG: Before they had the tiebreaker, period?

Q. Do you wish they still had 10-8?

MICHAEL CHANG: Like in the first set?

Q. Or all three.

MICHAEL CHANG: I don't know. I kind of like the tiebreaker in some instances. I think everyone else is like this (indicating). Can you imagine how many matches there would be at Wimbledon? It would be going on for days.

Q. Do they have it in Davis Cup?

GREG SHARKO: Final set.

MICHAEL CHANG: They used to have it until 1990. I think I was the first one to play a tiebreaker in Davis Cup.

Q. Pat Cash in 1989, Australia versus Austria.

MICHAEL CHANG: My understanding was it was '90 and I was first there.

Q. It seems like the longer the matches go, the better your chances are, though.

MICHAEL CHANG: I think that's partly true. It always plays a very important role. I think, granted, I would prefer to win a match won on ability than physical endurance, but sometimes that's what it takes.

Q. How much do you think that has to do, when you said you were playing in your basement, you always pulled it out in five sets? Is that kind of a mind set that's followed you through your life?

MICHAEL CHANG: Partly, I think partly. To be honest, I really enjoy those moments. I've had matches where I've had really tight, tight situations and stuff. Regardless, I've lost a lot of matches like that, I've won some matches like that. I've always come off the court, looking back, I've always enjoyed them. I think that's what makes tennis very exciting, not only for the players, but for the spectators. Those are the moments that I think are really enjoyable. I don't know if you guys ever get a chance to be in a situation, but where there's like 10,000 people watching. You go out and you hit a great shot, a crucial situation. The crowd just goes absolutely nuts. You can scream at the top of your lungs and you cannot hear yourself. From a player point of view, it's a great feeling.

Q. What's your single most exciting match and single most exciting shot, saying, "This is it"?

MICHAEL CHANG: That's kind of hard to say. I think still the match that stands out is my match with Ivan, just because of the situation, because it was an emotional match. I don't think I've ever been that emotional in a match before. On top of that, I think my match against John at the US Open, finished like 2 o'clock in the morning, in front of the New York fans and stuff, to be able to hit that lob winner over him for the match, that was pretty exciting. I have a lot of exciting memories and stuff. I'm only 25, so hopefully there will be plenty more. I almost feel like Stefan up here looking back on my career (laughter).

Q. Michael, do you have any stories about Agassi in the juniors?

MICHAEL CHANG: About Andre in the juniors? I have quite a few stories. Andre and I, we've actually had a long history. I think maybe even longer with Carl. My brother Carl used to play Andre all the time. Andre has always been a very confident person, his tennis is always based upon confidence. I remember Andre always had a big forehand, he played Carl one time. Carl has a pretty big forehand, too. I remember they played in this match. I guess he decided to go forehand to forehand with Carl. Carl's a pretty big boy. He's like a year older than Andre. Carl won like 6-Love, 6-1. It was a pretty fun match. In the juniors, Andre always gave me a lot of problems on the tennis court. In the juniors, I don't think I ever beat him once. We didn't play all that many times, but we did play quite a few times. I think the most difficult thing against Andre when we were very young, we played the National 12 and Unders in San Diego, he was like 12, I was like 10, and he actually stayed at our house. It's funny because I can remember walking back after looking at the draw, "I have to play this guy in the quarters." "Quarters, you have to play me first right there." We ended up playing in the second or third round. The most thing difficult thing about playing Andre when he was younger was the spins. He would play unbelievable spins, really wild. Occasionally he'd throw in an underhand serve, land within two feet of the net, totally spin off to the side. You couldn't do anything. We've had a lot of fun matches. I've known Andre for a very, very long time. There's lots of stories. I'm sure Courier and Sampras could tell you a lot of stories as well.

Q. About how many times did you play in the Juniors?

MICHAEL CHANG: I don't know, but I've definitely played Pete the most, by far. By far, I've played Pete the most.

GREG SHARKO: Last question, Bill.

Q. In our office, we have lots of pictures. One of my very favorite ones is from way back when you were a junior playing a Walt Disney event.


Q. It's fantastic. You're standing right next to Pete. You're not that big at that time.

MICHAEL CHANG: He wasn't that big either. I might have been taller than him.

Q. Can you recall that event and what occurred there?

MICHAEL CHANG: It's funny because I played there twice. Two or three times, actually. It was down in Orlando. That was a lot of fun. It's pretty funny because you look at the players now who played there. There's one picture where I won the 14s, Tommy won the 12 and Unders, Natasha Zvereva won the 14s, and this little girl Monica Seles won the 12 and Unders. If you look at those pictures, it's pretty funny to look at, see how small we all were, just to see how far all of us have gone. Arnaud Boetsch was there, Andre was there, Pete was there, just a lot of fond memories. I think if anyone ever digs up those pictures, it was in Inside Tennis, so I got a lot of comments this week, "Did you see that picture with you and Pete in there"? I asked them if I changed. He said, "No." They're pretty fun pictures to look at, yeah.

GREG SHARKO: Thanks, everyone.

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