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March 22, 2003
KEY BISCAYNE, FLORIDA
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. You had a couple of breakpoints in the second set. Did you feel you were going to get something started?
MICHAEL CHANG: I almost did. Didn't quite get that return deep enough. Andre had a good cross-court forehand winner. I did, I felt like I had some opportunities and, you know, conditions were a little bit tough today, you know, with the rain and the winds swirling a little bit. So I knew that it was going to be tough to get, you know, for Andre to get a good crack at the ball. I tried to use that to my advantage and try to play, you know, consistent tennis. You know, I definitely had some opportunities there to get that break back. But, you know, wasn't quite able to get those, so...
Q. To what extent does it cross your mind that this might be the last meeting between the two of you?
MICHAEL CHANG: Well, that's what I thought actually in San Jose, so... (Laughter). You know, to me, you know, I always look forward to playing against Andre and Pete. If I had an opportunity to play them here on out, every tournament from here on out, I would do so. I feel like it's an opportunity for me to go out there and play against some of the best players in the world, guys that I've grown up playing against for so many years. It's just been a lot of fun. I know that whenever I walk off the court, whether I've won or whether I've lost that particular match, it's always something that, you know, is very enjoyable for me. A little more enjoyable when I win. But overall, it's very positive.
Q. Are there any particular places you really look forward to playing in the course of this year?
MICHAEL CHANG: Every place, really, that I have put on my schedule. You know, I'm only playing a selected amount of tournaments this year and tournaments that have definitely meant a lot to me over the years. Tournaments that, you know, I'm very familiar with the people and, you know, greeted very warmly. People are always very encouraging, very supportive. As a tennis player, you love those things. You love going back to places that you feel welcome. Generally speaking, you tend to play better. You definitely tend to play better. So I think looking at my schedule, I think I'm just about playing every tournament that -- every tournament that I have on my schedule, I think with the exception of Wimbledon and the US Open, I think I've won. So, you know, that's, for me, it means a lot. I'm just looking forward to each opportunity that I have.
Q. On a Grand Slam that you won, do you look at Paris when you won there, and you look at the men's game today and how it's changed on clay, can you just summarize that and what you think has changed?
MICHAEL CHANG: Well, I think that, you know, I think that when I first came out on tour, tennis was a little bit more touch, you know, played with a little bit more chess-like, little bit more strategy involved. Now I think that, you know, the guys definitely are much bigger. Back when I first came on tour, the guys, McEnroe, Connors, they're not six feet. Most of the guys in the Top 10 were under six feet. Now, I don't know exactly now, but I know as of a couple years ago, average height for the Top 100 guys is 6'2. The stature has changed a little bit. I think the guys are in better shape, they're better athletes. In the whole scheme of things, I think the depth of men's tennis is much greater now. Before, back then, you could get away with maybe playing just okay tennis or just good tennis. You could get away with playing like that and winning a round or two. Now, you can't do that. The schedule, obviously, is much tougher. We play maybe 15, 17 tournaments. When I first came out in '88. Now the norm is playing anywhere from 24 to 26 tournaments a year, some guys as much as 35 tournaments a year. So the tour and the schedule and the players make it that much more difficult to go in and to be able to expect to be in the weekends in the finals every tournament that you play. So it just makes it that much more difficult, so...
Q. End of last year, after so many years on the pro tour, going to places like Burbank, Texas, what's that like, going back down to the bushes after a number of years?
MICHAEL CHANG: I think in all honesty, the challengers that I played last year were -- actually, I enjoyed them. In all honesty, growing up, when I first came up and I played tournaments, when I first started, I didn't play a whole lot of challenger tournaments or satellite tournaments. I was offered some wildcards when I first turned pro. I made such good use of those wildcards, I did so well in those tournaments, that I didn't have to play any challenger tournaments, I didn't have to play any satellite events. For me, it was a little bit different. People say, "Well, you know, how does it feel to play in front of 15, 20 people," and, you know, I think in all honesty, the times that I was there playing, you know, we actually had some pretty good crowds. I think that a lot of people were very appreciative of, you know, me coming to play a tournament and, you know, in a small city and stuff. For them, it was an opportunity to see somebody maybe that they had seen play on TV and somebody who accomplished, you know, a little bit in his career. For them, there was something for them to be excited about. So I felt good about playing there. My purpose, obviously, was to go out and to get some matches under my belt, gain some confidence and hopefully go out and to do well and win those tournaments. But, you know, I don't look back at those, you know, times that I played and say, "Oh, I can't believe I played those, or "I can't believe I played that." Each opportunity for me as a professional to go out and play has been good.
Q. Were you not offered a wildcard from the Australian Open?
MICHAEL CHANG: I was not. We had asked for one but I think that they -- my understanding was they already had committed -- had prior commitments as far as their wildcards go, as far as the Australian Open goes. That's fine. I respect their decision in that. I hope it doesn't have anything to do with me beating Paul as an amateur 15-year-old at the US Open (laughter). But, yeah, I have no hard feelings at all. Australian Open is a great tournament, has become a great tournament and will continue to be a great tournament.
Q. With two tournaments in China in September, how come you're ending your tour at the US Open?
MICHAEL CHANG: I feel like I told the people, you know, when I played in Asia last year, I told them that this was probably the last time I was going to compete in Asia. I think that for me, the tournaments in Asia have meant a lot to me. They've really gotten behind me and, you know, it's tough to describe, you know, what I feel when I go over there. But I feel like, too, in so many ways, I started my career at the US Open. It's the only tournament -- it's one of only maybe three tournaments that I think that I have never missed in my career. When I go out and I play the US Open this year, this year in 2003, it will be the only tournament that I've ever played in my career 17 times. That means a lot to me. It is my home Grand Slam. It's where my career really got started. As an amateur, in a place where I'd like to be able to finish it and hopefully finish on a high note.
Q. You wouldn't take a card into Beijing or Shanghai?
MICHAEL CHANG: No, no. Not my plans. I was a little bit upset that they happened to be on the same week.
Q. They're one after the other.
MICHAEL CHANG: Did they change that?
Q. Beijing is after The Open, skip a week, Shanghai.
MICHAEL CHANG: They changed it so they're not competing?
Q. Shanghai now butts up against Bangkok.
MICHAEL CHANG: Bangkok, that's a new tournament. I thought I hit them all in Asia (laughing). But, yeah, the US Open's where I started and it's where I'd like to finish.
Q. After all these years of competing against Andre, what do you most respect about him?
MICHAEL CHANG: That's a tough question because I think Andre has some great qualities. Obviously, you guys know his qualities on the court. But I think that, you know, off the court I think that sometimes, you know, Andre is a little bit misunderstood. I'm not going to say I know Andre inside-out, because I don't. But the sides that I do see Andre, the things that he does for kids, the charities that he's involved in, I see the kind of, you know, kindness that he has in his heart. Sometimes people don't see that. Sometimes maybe the things that he's done in the past, maybe some mistakes that he's made, sometimes overshadow those things. In many instances, I don't think it should. Andre's a great champion, you know, on the court. But I think he's a great champion off the court as well. I think people, if you talk to anybody close to him, I think that's one of the reasons why they're so loyal and so faithful to him, because they see the kind of person that, you know, that he is off the court.
Q. When you guys first came out there, you were actually kind of friends, went to Bible study meetings and everything. Then it kind of went away. Was it too hard, both being top players, or did you grow into different people and there wasn't a commonality?
MICHAEL CHANG: I think that's the way it was for all the young Americans, the four of us. Like you said, you know, Andre and I would share in some Bible studies. Actually, when I came out and I played the Las Vegas challenger as a 15-year-old, as an amateur, Andre came out and warmed me up for a couple of the matches because he lived there in Las Vegas and stuff. You know, that's the kind of relationship that we had. I don't think we were ever super close or anything, but it was just knowing that we were out there - same thing with Pete and Jim - knowing we were out there together, trying to build a career, trying to make it on the tour, and we knew that at that particular time, it was tough to go out on your own. It was tough to make it on your own. Even to this day, it's tough to make it on your own. Maybe that's one of the reasons why when I came out on tour, you know, Pete would eat with us. My mom would cook for both of us and, you know, we would go out and we'd practice together, we'd train together for the '89 French. We would play doubles together. You know, there was a certain kind of camaraderie knowing that all four of us were in the same boat. We were coming on tour, trying to encourage each other. Then it comes to a period of time where all of a sudden we start feeding off of each other's success and starting to realize that, "Hey, we've got some talent. We have an opportunity to not just be on tour and make a living out of it, but be very successful at it." From there, all of a sudden, it changed. It changed because we realized that we were competing against each other to win tournaments. I think during that period of time, everyone started to kind of have their own little support group, their own little entourage, I don't think we needed each other as much. As we approached the latter stages of our career, we'd come to appreciate each other a little bit more, knowing a lot of our success has to do with knowing that we've grown up, you know, with each other and, you know, spurring each other on to bring out the best in one another. That's been a good thing.
Q. So much of your game is centered in your legs. Can you more or less pinpoint the time in your career when there began to be some doubts that your legs were going to be able to carry you through another couple of two, three, four seasons, where you knew you had to redouble your effort but it really wasn't working?
MICHAEL CHANG: I think I struggled a little bit definitely when I had my knee injury. I actually tried to probably come back a little too early and I had some other subsequent injuries because of that.
Q. What year was that?
MICHAEL CHANG: That was '98. Then, you know, I think also getting really, really strong in '97, the off-season, I put on a lot of weight, muscle-wise. I think that slowed me down. So, you know, that, and then the injury following a couple months later didn't help me. But, you know, in all honesty, I feel like I'm moving pretty well. I think that there were sometimes where I doubted whether I could get to some of the balls and stuff. I feel good about where I am. I'm probably not quite as fast as, you know, as I used to be. But, you know, I feel good out there and I still, when I'm out there playing, I don't feel like there's a ball out there that I can't reach.
Q. Throughout your career, because of the style of play and the way other players have played, you've had to battle for everything you ever got out of tennis. Have you, in a sense, relished being, in a sense, a standard bearer for the little guy who can play away and still get things achieved in the game?
MICHAEL CHANG: What "little guy" (smiling)? Not too many little guys anymore. Even Lleyton's taller than me. I think in certain aspects, yeah, I think that, you know, I think people, some people have learned a little bit from the way that I play tennis and realize that in time, when you go out and you play against guys who are bigger, stronger, maybe a little more athletic, you know, doesn't necessarily mean that they're going to win tennis matches. I think Lleyton is a good example of, you know, a guy who doesn't have a whole lot of power, has a great sense of court, can hit some great shots, runs down a lot of balls and has the tenacity that, you know, that I don't think you see in 90 percent of the players. I think that's what sets him apart. I think in certain aspects, that has definitely helped me to win a lot of matches that maybe I shouldn't have won. The belief in that, in that I could do it, and, you know, not wanting to give anybody anything. So if you're going to beat me, you've got to earn it. You got to take it from me.
Q. If you would construct a player for the French Open under today's conditions in today's game, what would you give him as a player for a French Open champion?
MICHAEL CHANG: First thing is endurance and stamina. I think that if -- you can be a great player. If you can't last, no chance. The French, you know, by everyone's standards, I think is the most grueling tournament. Seven tough matches, three-out-of-five sets. You can be a great player. If you can't last, you're not going to win. I think outside of that, you got to have an attitude. You got to have an attitude of being able to stay out there, not being afraid to stay out there, and not being afraid to grind. That's really what the French is all about. I can't remember the last time a true, power player came in and blew everybody off the court in Paris. The guys are too good now. They cover too much court. They see too many fast serves. They see too much power to be in -- to be in awe of a guy that just comes out and whacks a ball. So I think those traits, I think probably those two are probably some of the most important.
Q. Going back to what you were talking about earlier, making it on your own, I think some people outside the sport don't see how rigorous and lonely the tour can be. Can you give us an insight, recalling some of the darker moments, how tough the tour is as a professional?
MICHAEL CHANG: The tour is grueling at times. I have not unpacked my bag for 16 years, my luggage. I only take the dirty clothes out, wash them and put them back in. I know within a week or couple days, I'm off to my next destination. In all honesty, for me, the tour's never been lonely. I have at least one member of my family always traveling with me. Generally speaking, I feel like everyone on tour is very easy to get along. I never had problems or issues with players or with, you know, the ATP officials for the most part, you know, a few bad calls and stuff like that, but for the most part, you know, everyone's pretty good. It's been -- for the most part it's been easy, you know. So I think maybe it's a little bit different maybe for some of the guys who are out there by their selves. Maybe it's a little bit different in that aspect. If anything, if you're going to be successful at it, you need a support team, people who will encourage you, who are going to lift you up when you're down, who are going to help you through difficult times and cheer you on when you're doing well.
Q. In 16 years, how many times did you throw your racquet?
MICHAEL CHANG: How many times did I throw my racquet? In a professional match? I can't think of any... I've had times where it's slipped out of my hand (smiling). I've done McEnroe impersonations, but those were at exhibitions. I can't recall in a regular professional match. It doesn't mean I haven't done it. I've done it. So tennis can be frustrating. So I throw my racquet just like the rest of you guys (smiling). But, you know, never in a match.
Q. Never broke one?
MICHAEL CHANG: Not intentionally. Not intentionally in a match. I have broken one hitting a ball, but not intentionally.
Q. You're retiring in a few months. Did you ever feel old out there today? You're playing against a guy who's still at the top of the game. It's funny to ask because he's older than you are, but did you feel old today?
MICHAEL CHANG: No, because I look over and I see Andre has less hair.
Q. Talk about the evolution of Andre. You've known him for so long, played against him for so long. Look at him today, he's playing as well as he's ever played. What's your feeling out there when you look across the net?
MICHAEL CHANG: I think what Andre has done, particularly over the last few years, hats off. It's great to see him fulfill his potential as a tennis player. You know as well as I do when he first came on tour he had everything. He had everything but the titles. He had the flair and the charisma and stuff. Now, he's been able to put it all together and it's been good to see. I think of all the players that I can think back, he's probably had the most up and down. He's been the most up and down as far as his career goes. He's had a lot of highs, but a lot of lows, too. In all honesty, it's good to see him settle down in his personal life, because I think that Andre, what makes Andre a great tennis player is stability off the court. That's just my observation. He may tell you a little bit differently. But that's the way that I feel. Hopefully, for tennis' sake, I hope that he'll continue to play like this at this kind of level for at least a couple more years because I think that he's an asset to tennis and to professional sports.
Q. Do you think those highs and lows actually gave him longevity?
MICHAEL CHANG: In certain aspects. In certain aspects. Maybe gave him a little bit of time to rest his body a little bit, gave him a little bit more time to think because Andre is a thinker. I think in certain aspects, it did help him find what he really wanted to do, if he really wanted to go out and give it one last push. And he's done that. It's good to see.
Q. How emotional was it for you, just the post-match atmosphere, the crowd is giving you a standing ovation, Andre is sitting, waiting for you to have your moment. Can you just talk about what that was like?
MICHAEL CHANG: You know, I feel like part of my farewell tour is to be able to say "thank you." Thank you to the fans, to the people, thank you to the tournament directors, tournament staff, people that are involved. I realize that, you know, I'm not going to have another opportunity to do that. So, you know, I try to take advantage of that opportunity to say thank you to the people. It's never been my style to do like Andre does, for example, you know, to go out into the middle of the court and to take a bow and stuff, it's never been my style. But I feel like I want the crowd to be able to know how I feel, you know. I'm pointing to them, saying that -- I'm giving them a round of applause, for once, the other way around, because they have given me so much applause for so many years. That's a good feeling. I think that I appreciate that Andre recognizes what I'm doing. He knows, he knows what it's about. It's a good feeling. I've had a few emotional moments in other tournaments. I've had my voice crack on a couple of occasions. But for the most part, it's been good. Florida has been very kind to me.
Q. Did you ever beat him in the junior matches? He was older, of course.
MICHAEL CHANG: I've never beaten Andre in the Juniors. I never beat him in the Juniors. I only beat him, you know, as a professional.
Q. Do you have any idea how many there would have been?
MICHAEL CHANG: A lot. I think actually -- I think Andre actually played my brother, Carl, more than he's played me.
Q. He just spoke of that.
MICHAEL CHANG: Carl's beaten him bad a few times (laughter). But, yeah -- well, Carl's a year older than Andre, a couple years older than Pete. So, I mean, this was this generation. Yeah, they probably played a little bit more than I did.
Q. Back in '89, Ivan Lendl was probably the epitome of what you described in terms of endurance, fitness and everything else, yet people will never forget what you did to him that day at Roland Garros. You must have been asked about this millions of times, but does it still surprise you, how you came through that match against Lendl?
MICHAEL CHANG: Sure, sure. You know, I've had times where I've gone back and I've seen that match and I'll watch it, the match will be done, and I still can't tell you. I still can't tell you how I won the match. It's an odd feeling. I've always said that, you know, "Lord works in his miraculous ways." I think that was one of the matches that, for me, was just that. I think particularly the last four matches were really played on inspiration. I always tell people that it's a tournament that I felt in my heart, looking back, that the Lord wanted me to win because of the situation in Tianenman Square, being a very down time for Chinese people, an opportunity for Chinese people to take a moment to smile about something, to smile about something that was happening to a fellow Chinese person half way around the world. I feel like in certain aspects, that was God's purpose.
Q. Looking back now, are you surprised at yourself for serving underarm the way you did and coming up to the service line?
MICHAEL CHANG: Yes, yes. I think serving underhand, it was just a spur of the moment thing. I think sometimes when you're 17 years old, you don't quite know what you're doing. Obviously, I don't think I would -- it would be received in the same way if I were to do it now, if I was cramping. I don't know, there's something -- a certain naivete, certain innocence about doing it when you're 17 years old. For me, it was just trying to win points and trying to win points. I think for the most part, I think that's why I don't feel like I got ridiculed that much for doing it.
Q. No. Somebody once said to me, the day after the match, because I said, "What do you think happened to Lendl?" He said, "Somebody pulled the plug out of the computer."
MICHAEL CHANG: Well... You know, I think -- I don't think it was a very easy match for Ivan to play, in all honesty. I think that Ivan is a great champion and under most circumstances, he knows how to handle, you know, those kind of situations. I mean, he's very, very prepared, very, very professional. He works very, very hard. You know, it's just one of those matches that you can't train for. I don't think you can train somebody to, you know, how to figure out how to play somebody when he's hurting or when he's cramping. That was something that was new for Ivan, and, you know, just so happens that the circumstances, you know, turned out the way that they did. But, you know, I have nothing but the utmost respect for Ivan. I mean, when I saw him in London, never did he say -- give me a dirty look or anything like that. He came up to me and said, "Congratulations. It was a great effort in Paris." To me, that shows me a lot of class. I think that Ivan is known for, you know, kind of a computer a little bit, very stringent in the way he does things, but there's a certain side to him also that people don't see, something that I've appreciated because he's always been very, very kind to me and my mom throughout the times that I've played him in my career and even times, you know, just chatting with him.
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