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August 26, 2003
NEW YORK CITY
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Michael.
Q. With all the marketing of changing of the guard, Pete's retirement, yours, this almost does mark a changing of the guard. Would you agree?
MICHAEL CHANG: I'm not quite sure. You have to talk to Andre about that. I think there's obviously truth in that. A lot of new players have come on the tour, particularly over the last four or five years. You know, in all honesty, I can probably say that seven, eight years ago, I'd probably know everybody in the locker room. Nowadays, I only know a fraction of them. Just a lot of new faces, a lot of up-and-coming talent. In many ways, you know, Andre is the last of this generation. Yeah, I think in many ways it's true.
Q. How emotional was it for you out there?
MICHAEL CHANG: I think it was emotional for me. I think I try to keep my mind on other things, I think, in order to kind of keep my composure out there. I recognize that Andre and Alex are also waiting in the tunnel to come out and play their match. I want to be respectful toward them. But, you know, a lot of emotions going through both before, during, and after the match.
Q. Did you have fun today?
MICHAEL CHANG: I did. I did have fun today. I think it was a goal of mine to be able to have fun today and to have fun, you know, this year, this last year. I really think that if you walk away from the tour, you know, feeling like, "I should have done that, I should have done that," have regrets, and not walk away with a smile, then something's not right. You recognize that 16 years on tour has been so much of a blessing in your life. You know, I think it's important to be able to walk away, you know, feeling good, regardless of whether you win or whether you lose.
Q. Even though you lost today, were you pleased with your performance in your final match?
MICHAEL CHANG: Yeah, I felt like I played some good tennis. Some missed opportunities there. I had a set point in the second set. You know, I felt overall like I played some good tennis - a lot better than some of the other matches I've played this year. You know, came up a little bit short. But, you know, I definitely went out there and tried to play the best that I could.
Q. What is in your heart now? What are your feelings?
MICHAEL CHANG: It's a little bit difficult to describe. I don't know if it's going to quite maybe hit me till maybe a few hours later. You know, tennis has been such a big part of my life, obviously in the Juniors. But when you've done something so long, then all of a sudden to maybe realize that you're not going to be doing it anymore, I think that's when it's going to hit me. For me, you know, it's the daily thing of preparing for a match or preparing for a tournament. Your schedule pretty much every week is based upon preparation, where you're going to be, what you're going to eat, how you're going to get there, how are you going to play this particular person, how are you going to prepare for this surface? All of those things won't be there anymore. It will be a little bit different. I think when that happens, you know, probably the emotions will come out a little bit more.
Q. Back to the glorious '80s when you were all Juniors, would you have thought in 2003 the last of all of you standing would not be Jim Courier or Pete or David Wheaton, it would be Michael Chang, Andre Agassi? What did Gonzalez say to you at the net?
MICHAEL CHANG: I think, you know, as far as this generation goes - and Todd is still playing, but Todd started a little bit later than the rest of us - I think, in all honesty, I don't think -- maybe in certain aspects, particularly when Andre was really struggling, I don't think that any one of us would have thought he would be the last one out there - not only playing, but winning tournaments and winning Grand Slam tournaments. That's just another exceptional thing that Andre has done in his career. Obviously, I think between the four of us, I think Andre's career has been a little bit more up and down than the rest of us. I think during some of the downtime, he was able to jump-start, kick start his career, almost starting anew in many ways. I think what he has done over the past few years is phenomenal. Andre will always be a great asset to the sport of tennis, whether he's playing or whether he's not.
Q. How much did winning the French Open have to do with your reputation and how you feel about yourself as a player?
MICHAEL CHANG: Fernando said it was an honor to be able to play today. Not quite sure if he would have said that if he lost (laughter). But I appreciate that. I think by the end of the day, if you're able to walk away and have the respect of your fellow players, I think that says a lot. Obviously, for me it means a lot. You know, he was very gracious in winning today, very kind with his words.
Q. How much did winning the French Open do for yourself, what you knew you could do as a player at that stage?
MICHAEL CHANG: I think the French Open, I don't know if it necessarily really made me to be a certain way. I really can't say that. I think the French Open in many ways, you know, brought out a certain characteristic in me and in my game that was already there. Just the circumstances allowed for it to be able to show. You know, sometimes you're not able to see those things unless a particular individual is tested. For me, obviously it gave me a tremendous amount of confidence to be able to go into any match, any three-out-of-five-set match knowing that I was able to win that match, regardless of whether I was up two sets or whether I was down two sets. You know, you go back to those memories of what you're able to do back then and you feed on that energy.
Q. How disappointed are you that you haven't won another major after the French Open?
MICHAEL CHANG: Well, I came awfully close. Three Grand Slam finals after that. Had a great opportunity here at the US Open in '97. You know, all I can say is I went out and I tried. I think that's all you can really ask of yourself. You know, I sometimes get -- people ask me sometimes, "What about the timing of the French Open?" I wouldn't change a thing really. You have your opportunities to win, and you take them as best as you possibly can. Sometimes you're able to come through, and sometimes not. You know, unfortunately for me, that second Grand Slam never quite came. You know, still I know that throughout my career, the Lord's blessed me with a lot more than I ever imagined. I don't think people certainly that knew us expected us to play on the tour for so long and be able to play professional tennis, win events, have opportunities to win Grand Slam tournaments. All of those things, by our standards, exceeded the expectations, to be able to walk away feeling good about it.
Q. Your class of yourself and Courier and Agassi, 27 Grand Slam titles, what argument is there for you not being the greatest class ever in the history of American tennis?
MICHAEL CHANG: You know, for me that's not really for me to say. You've got four great champions. I think what makes this particular class so special is that we grew up playing against each other. You know, I can still remember getting a bum call from Andre when we were 11 years old. You know, we go back a long, long ways. I think for us to be able to get through the Juniors and be able to play professionally, be able to push each other, be able to inspire each other, too, I think that played a big role in the whole scheme of things. You know, I'm sure that -- I'm positive after I won the French Open in '89, the other guys were saying, "Shoot, we've grown up playing with Michael. If this little squirt can win a Grand Slam, why can't I?" From there, the Grand Slam titles started to come. Jim was the first one to I think reach No. 1. You know, the rest of us were inspired by that. In many ways, I think we really brought out, you know, the best in each other on the court.
Q. What was the bum call from Andre?
MICHAEL CHANG: It was in Southern California, because Andre didn't get a whole lot of competition in Vegas, that's for sure. You know, Juniors is Juniors, I guess (laughter). I think, yeah, some things you remember.
Q. Who won the match?
MICHAEL CHANG: I never beat Andre in the Juniors. Carl beat him plenty of times, but I never beat Andre in the Juniors. Andre definitely had my number. Andre is a couple years older than me. It was tough to play against him. Played with a lot of spin back then, too. First time I beat Andre was in 1990 in Toronto.
Q. Did he hook you on a baseline call?
MICHAEL CHANG: I think it was a sideline call. It was a pretty big point. But, you know, it might have been out (smiling).
Q. You speak of that '97 US Open. A year earlier you were one match from being the No. 1 ranked player in the world, losing to Pete in the final. Do you ever think how your life and career would have changed if you had beaten Pete that day?
MICHAEL CHANG: You know, I think there's -- you know, I sometimes think about that. I honestly feel like if I had won that match and I'd become No. 1, I think that I would have lost a little bit of drive, in all honesty. I think the last few years, you know, have been very, very tough. But I push myself. I push myself and believe that there was an opportunity still, you know, to possibly win a major. I tried to give myself the best opportunity. You know, I think even though I didn't win that particular match, it helped me to get through some difficult times. You know, sometimes it's easy to say, "I reached No. 1, I won the US Open," it's easy to say, "That's it, I'm done." I learned a lot about myself and I learned a lot about life going through those difficult situations. I learned a lot about my family. I think, looking at it as a whole, those things will develop characteristics in me as a person that will help me later on in the future.
Q. When you walked off court today, did you feel like a Hall of Famer?
MICHAEL CHANG: I didn't really think about Hall of Fame. I mentioned earlier that, you know, not every professional athlete gets an ovation like that, gets an ovation like that from New York. Obviously, it means a lot to me. It's special, you know, because you know people care a lot about you. Probably this past year I've learned more about how much people care about me than I have the other 15 years that I've been playing on tour. It's nice to be able to know that through tennis or through your person, you're able to touch a life. It's nice to know that a lot of lives have touched mine.
Q. All the years that you've played, how have you seen the game change in terms of racquets changing, and how has the technology affected the game?
MICHAEL CHANG: Well, I kind of changed the technology in racquets in '94. You know, we tried really hard to keep that a secret from the rest of the field. You know, Prince was pretty good about it for about a year. After that, they were saying, "You know, Michael, we got to get this technology out," all this, all that. All of a sudden, next thing you know, "Your racquet is longer. Your racquet is longer, too." The technology started to boom a little bit. You know, when I first came out on tour, the guys weren't really that big. You have McEnroe, Connors, 5'10", 5'11", dominating the sport. Ivan was considered tall, who was maybe 6'1", 6'2". Not a whole lot of really big guys. Nowadays, average guy in the Top 100 is 6'2". You have really some giants there. I think the depth of men's tennis is much greater nowadays, too. That on top of the schedule being very, very difficult. I really think it's going to be tough to have a person dominate men's tennis like a Pete Sampras for so many years. I just don't see it happening. I could be wrong. But the tour's tough now.
Q. Some guys like John McEnroe have said the racquets are getting too big, it's causing the game to lose a lot. What do you think about that?
MICHAEL CHANG: I don't know if necessarily the racquets are getting big. I've been using the same size racquet since I was 10 years old, other than adding the extra inch. You know, I think guys are getting a lot stronger. I think guys are getting a lot more athletic. I think if you were to probably look at the build of some of the guys in the '80s, you can look at Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe, versus some of the guys now, there's a sizable difference there. With that kind of power, obviously the guys are able to generate that kind of pace through, yes, a little bit of strength, but also through timing. You know, technology does play a certain role, but I think the guys have trained a lot harder to hit the ball harder, too.
Q. You being a role model in Asia, how conscious are you of that? How is your Mandarin Chinese going?
MICHAEL CHANG: My Mandarin is coming along. (Speaking Mandarin.) I think Asia is a place that will always be very dear to my heart. We have some things on the table that we're looking at as far as, you know, possibly working with some Asian talent, some young Asian talent. You know, we feel like tennis is still a relatively new sport over there. You know, with the guys like Paradorn, for example, doing so well, we know that tennis can only take off. When you really look at it, Asia/Pacific Rim is very, very successful in sports that are similar to tennis: badminton, table tennis. It makes no sense why they can't be successful at tennis, as well. I really think it's a matter of time, getting facilities. I know facilities are very difficult to come by right now. Pretty much the higher-income people over there are really the only ones that have access to courts day in, day out. Hopefully that will change in the coming years and there will be more Asian players not only playing on tour but being very successful.
Q. Would you consider coaching an Asian player?
MICHAEL CHANG: Yeah. I don't see myself traveling. I'm tired. After 16 years, it would be nice to be able to unpack my bags. But for sure, to be able to work with some talent, probably involves a little bit of travel, which is okay. But day in, day out on tour, I don't see myself doing that.
Q. It's been suggested that in the mid '90s, you probably overtrained and it slowed you down. Is that a fair statement?
MICHAEL CHANG: I think I was doing pretty good in the mid '90s. I can honestly tell you that at the end of '97, I trained very, very hard. I probably overtrained. I've had a few times where I've actually overtrained. You know, I notice that I started to get hurt a little bit more. I definitely got a lot stronger. I felt like the added strength would help me. You know, in the beginning of '98 I had an injury. I slipped on a wet court. I tore my MCL in my left knee. Obviously, I think that and my subsequent wrist tendonitis was tough. I never really kind of got my way back to where I was. I tried really hard. I worked very hard. You know, just didn't quite get back there. But definitely in certain aspects, you know, at times I did overtrain.
Q. What do you think the Lendl match at the French said about you as a competitor? Do you believe that's the defining match of your career?
MICHAEL CHANG: I think in many ways it is probably a defining match for my career. I think that if, you know, people recall matches, that's probably the one match that will come to mind, the first thing that comes to mind. I don't know. I think in many aspects that match, you know, taught me a lot. It taught me a lot about life and taught me a lot about recognizing that, you know, we have our ups, we have our downs. I think the times where you're able to pick yourself up and you're able to fight through, whether you come off the court having won or lost, but to know being able to fight through, you got to be able to feel good about that. There was actually one point in the fifth set where I was walking over to the side and I thought about quitting. I walked to the service line, and something inside me said, "No, don't do that. You've got to fight. You've got to play the rest of this match whether you win or lose." I think in many aspects, for me as a person, and as a tennis player, I've had to fight. I think those kinds of, you know, matches remind me that to fight and not to give up is a great thing.
Q. What's next for you?
MICHAEL CHANG: We have a lot of stuff to do with our Chang Family Foundation. I'll definitely be playing a much greater role in that. I actually have quite a few speaking engagements toward the end of the year. You know, outside of that, we're looking at some other possibilities. We have some business stuff that also needs to be addressed and taken care of. And my golf game needs some help. It would be nice to be able to work on my golf game, have some fun, hopefully at least beat Jim Courier on the Pro Celebrity Tour.
Q. What is the one quality that has made you such a special champion over 16 years?
MICHAEL CHANG: I think if there's one word to describe the things that I've been through, and I know a lot of people have been through a lot more difficult things than I have, I sometimes look at some of the things that people go through, and in all reality I look at myself, and my stuff is peanuts compared to them. But for me, I feel like if there's one word, you know, that describes things I've had to go through as a tennis player, as a person, I would say perseverance. I've never felt like I've -- you know, I've been blessed in so many ways. But, you know, I've had to work and I've had to fight through some things. When I first turned pro, I had some people that were opposing my decision. You know, a lot of people say, "You're too small. You're too young," stuff like that. I get a lot of opposition that way. I think as a family, we've had to fight through it together. No doubt, to do it together as a family is a lot easier than to do it as a single individual.
Q. You were born in Hoboken. Have you ever thought about making a post-tennis career here in New York, living here?
MICHAEL CHANG: I know I'll still be involved in tennis one way or another. I don't foresee myself living here in New York. When they say tennis is a sport for a lifetime, it's very, very true. I know I'll still be involved in tennis one way or another, for sure. You know, I don't believe it's just good-bye, I'll see you whenever, whenever, whenever. You know, tennis is still very important for me as a person, yeah.
Q. Would you ever consider running for public office? Your thinking is clear. Probably could use somebody like you.
MICHAEL CHANG: I've announced my candidacy for Cincinnati mayor (smiling). No, I haven't really thought too much about that.
Q. You could oppose Arnold.
MICHAEL CHANG: I could oppose Ahnold (said with an Austrian accent). I think whenever you're able to do good things, you take advantage of it. Whether you're in politics or professional athlete, it doesn't really matter. When it comes down to it, sports is sports, but you use it -- you are trying to accomplish your own things, but you use it as a vehicle to touch lives and inspire people. That's what sports is really all about. You want people to be able to walk away and feel good about that and be able to inspire them, you know, to do great things in their own life. All those things are important.
Q. When you walk away from here today, how would you like tennis to remember you?
MICHAEL CHANG: I don't know if that's really for me to say. I think everyone has different opinions.
Q. How would you like tennis to remember you?
MICHAEL CHANG: That's a tough question for me to answer. You know, I think on court, it would be nice to be able to be remembered, you know, a person that gave his best - win, lose or draw. Hopefully in the whole tennis career, hopefully be able to touch a life or inspire a person. That means a lot to me. I feel like if I walked away from the tour and was selfish about the way I went about things, won all these Grand Slam titles, won all this money, was selfish in the way I looked upon tennis, then I don't feel like I've accomplished what originally was set out to do as far as being given this talent.
Q. How do you think you will feel leaving this venue tonight?
MICHAEL CHANG: I don't know. I don't know. I don't know what it's going to feel like. You know, this whole year has been bittersweet. Obviously, you're excited about, you know, moving on to other things, but at the same time you love the sport of tennis. You love being out there and being able to hit a shot and scream at the top of your lungs and not be able to hear yourself because of the crowd. Those are things that I'll always carry with me in my heart, things that I'll remember for a long, long time. I'll hopefully use those things to be able to, you know, maybe tell my own kids some bedtime stories. I'm excited. I'm excited about future stuff. But it's going to be tough leaving tennis.
Q. Are you going to stay till the end of the tournament?
MICHAEL CHANG: I'm planning on staying. I am planning on staying. I have a few other things that need to be taken care of. The USTA has been kind enough, going to present me with something.
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