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August 27, 2001

Michael Chang


MODERATOR: Questions for Michael.

Q. To come in here with the experience you've had at this venue, to take on somebody who hasn't performed well here, can you talk about the match? I would assume you're disappointed.

MICHAEL CHANG: Yeah, obviously it is disappointing to lose here in the first round. You know, it wasn't an easy first round. You know, I felt like I had a pretty good opportunity to win this match. You know, he played some pretty good tennis today. You know, never really felt like I was able to, you know, really dictate the way that I wanted to. It seemed as if his balls either landed really, really short or they landed really, really deep. You know, seemed like I would get caught on the short ones. I would be able to get up there and hit it, clip the tape, you know, be able to hit just an okay shot. Against a guy like Nico, an okay shot is not going to be good enough. Yeah, I feel like I had some opportunities, but not a whole lot today. Yeah, just feel like I got outplayed a little bit.

Q. How is the state of your game, aside from today? Do you feel like you're beginning to progress? Do you feel the Michael Chang of a few years ago is still in you, be tapped still?

MICHAEL CHANG: I think it's a possibility. You know, a couple weeks, had a good tournament in DC a couple weeks ago. I felt like that was a really good stepping stone, you know, coming in here. It's been my best tournament so far this year. You know, I had some really good wins there. You know, that's really some of the best tennis I felt like I played in a long time. So, you know, I think if I'm able to play that kind of tennis, then obviously there's hope to be able to get back to where I was five years ago. You know, it's not an easy road back. It's a long road back. You know, obviously it's taken a lot more time than what I would have liked. You know, I feel like I'm still motivated to go out there and work hard. I'm trying to have a little bit more fun out there when I'm playing, you know, trying to be a little more relaxed. I think for me at least it's fair to say that I've probably played better during this summer from Cincinnati on than I have throughout the whole year. That's been a positive step for me, even though it's a first-round loss here.

Q. When is the last time you played on that court? Has it been a while?

MICHAEL CHANG: Well, I keep thinking about the final that I lost to Pete (laughter). Surely, I must have played on there. I played Harel there last year first round.

Q. Does it feel entirely different? Does it almost feel like it's a different tournament from those days?

MICHAEL CHANG: A little bit. A little bit. Obviously, the court has changed a little bit. Actually, I felt the conditions were a little bit tough today. A little bit windy. The wind was tricky today. Shanking a few more shots than I normally would, having to make last-second adjustments on some of the shots. But it is a little bit, you know, different compared to back when that was the Center Court.

Q. Being out there today, you were reminded of that final, of the old days?

MICHAEL CHANG: No. Just when you told me my last match I played out there (laughter). Why that match came to my mind, I don't know why. Maybe there's still some hurt in there somewhere.

Q. Over your career, can you think back to a match, a big match or a small match, where you felt really in tune, in the zone, really flowing, the ball seemed huge? Was there one time where you just felt like that, and describe what that was like?

MICHAEL CHANG: I can't really say. The tennis was really good in Washington for me. Other than that, this year has been a real struggle for me. I don't think -- I haven't won two consecutive matches up until Washington. All of a sudden, you know, the week of Washington, everything seemed to click really well. I had a tough match with Byron Black, then played three great matches against Kiefer, Canas and Santoro, then ran into Andy in the semis, just played some great tennis. You know, I felt like things were solid there. I had some tough matches, was able to win the big points. For me, that's important, to be able to go out and to do that. As you know, not a whole lot separates the guys these days. It really comes down to the big points and the crucial points here and there that really can make a difference between whether you win a match or lose a match. That's why I felt like that was such a good, you know, stepping stone for me. Why this year's been the way it has, I really can't explain it. You know, last year was a step in the right direction. But I feel like this year has been a little bit of a step back. This summer has been a little bit of a step up. Obviously, I would have loved to have been able to build, you know, here at The Open, but just didn't happen.

Q. What are your thoughts on the next generations, the guys to follow you, Agassi, Sampras, your contemporaries? Any special thoughts about the way Roddick is playing as maybe the next standard bearer?

MICHAEL CHANG: I missed the first part of your question.

Q. Your thoughts on the next generation, the guys to follow you, Sampras, Agassi, Courier? And, specifically, Roddick?

MICHAEL CHANG: I think obviously it's -- tennis for America is looking much brighter now than it was, say, a couple years ago. That's for sure. Obviously, Andy has been playing some fabulous tennis this year. I think with the kind of results that he's had, I think it's spurred on some of the younger players to do well, to do even better than what they have in the past. I felt that's one of the things that really helped our generation do so well and be able to accomplish so much. We really grew up competing against each other, you know, having opportunities where we knew each other pretty well. To be able to go out and to play Juniors against each other, then all of a sudden turn pro pretty much together, Andre turned pro a couple years later, but he didn't really do well until we came on tour, the rest of us, Courier, Pete and I. Then results started to come. I think me winning the French Open in '89 was kind of a confidence booster for all of us. I'm sure they were saying, "Shoot, how many times have I beaten Michael? He can go out and he can win the French Open? Why can't I go out and win a Grand Slam?" Pete comes out the next year and wins the US Open. Then Jim comes out and wins the French Open, becomes No. 1. I'm sure Andre, Pete and myself, we were thinking, "If Jim can become No. 1, we have an opportunity, as well." It's kind of a chain reaction. You kind of feed off that kind of inspiration, that kind of confidence. To be honest with you, hopefully that's what's going to happen for the future of American tennis. Obviously, Andy has been playing some great tennis. Jan-Michael has been playing some great tennis. You know, you have a lot of talented American players that hopefully will make their mark and have a good year and be able to build on that. Obviously, it's going to be important the next year following to be able to back up those results and to be able to say to the rest of the tour, "Look, last year was great - this year's going to be better." I think it's important to be able to make that statement. Otherwise, the guys aren't going to have that kind of intimidation factor. No longer in their mentality is, "I don't want to lose to Andy." Then come the next year, it's like, "Oh, I get a chance to play Andy." You know what I mean? Mentality changes a little bit. The following year's a little bit more pressure-filled. Hopefully, you know, those guys will be able to step it up and continue to improve and take their tennis to a new level.

Q. What is your future? How much more can you say you took steps forward and steps back? How many more steps are you going to be taking?

MICHAEL CHANG: Well, I've taken a lot of steps on the tennis court, I'll tell you that. You know, I really think that sometimes with any kind of progression that you make, I don't think you can ever really take constant steps forward. I think there are always going to be some setbacks, some difficulties. I'm not going to sit here and tell you that I'm going to be able to pull off an Andre Agassi, you know, and win so many Grand Slams, or be able to win another Grand Slam, become No. 1. Obviously, that's something that, you know, inspires me, something that I would love to be able to do. But I don't know. You know, I'm hoping that something like that would be able to happen. But I think when it comes down to it, you know, I still love playing the game of tennis. I love going out. I still enjoy working hard. I still enjoy coming out and competing, playing in the atmospheres that tournaments like the US Open have. It's fun to be a part of. Obviously, you want to be able to go out and win, because winning is fun. But, you know, sometimes you're not able to do that. I think if there comes a day, you know, where I lose that motivation, I lose that desire, that willingness to want to be there, you know, with the guys, grind it out day in, day out, I know my time's up. But for now, I don't feel that way. You know, I think those things are important. Your attitude is important. Hopefully, you know, I have a couple more good years left in me. Obviously, I'd love to be able to finish on a high note.

Q. Are there moments on a day like today when it's hard not to start thinking a bit when you're out there, "I used to play in the finals here, stadium used to be packed"? Is that difficult to keep out while you're playing?

MICHAEL CHANG: No, not really. You know, I think -- I mean, realistically I've gotten to the point where I think the last few years have been pretty tough for me. I think to a certain degree, I don't think people really expect me to win. I don't really need to put that -- to have that kind of pressure. You know, I can just really kind of -- you know, I go out to each match, and I think pretty much for the most part I'm the underdog now. It's a new feeling for me to go out into a match and be the underdog. I don't have that much pressure anymore. You know, I know that I've accomplished a great deal in my career, and obviously anything that I can add on here would be icing on the cake. You know, hopefully I can get that icing and spread it a little bit. Yeah, I mean, I just need to go out and swing away. Hopefully, you know, the next couple years, there's some good things in there.

Q. You spoke about how you, Pete and Andre at the other end of your careers began to show each other that you could win a Grand Slam, and they followed suit. Now you're the standard bearers of the older generation. ATP makes a big difference of the generations.

MICHAEL CHANG: Old balls. Balls that still bounce (laughter).

Q. A lot of this is generational warfare. Can you, on this end of your career spectrum, say Andre's late successes are the same type of motivator as they were on the other end? Can his successes now be an inspiration to you at this level of your career in a similar sort of way?

MICHAEL CHANG: Absolutely. I think for sure. He's 31 years old. People normally say, you approach your late 20s, early 30s, you're pretty much toast, you're out the door. I think in certain aspects, to be honest with you, I think it's a myth. I think some people choose to put it in their end, and other people don't. I think Andre is a great example of that. You have other players that have done extremely well in their late 20s and early 30s, guys who have reached the pinnacle. Obviously, Andre is a great example. Anders Gomez winning the French Open in his 30s, Thomas Muster becoming No. 1 in his late 20s. You know, I think it is in many ways a very good inspiration. Hopefully I'll be able to say, "If Andre can do it, I can do it, too." Right now, I know I'm pretty far off from that. You know, I'm going to take as many steps as I can possibly take. Whatever God holds in the future, you know, I think I'm ready for it. Obviously I want to be able to go out knowing win or lose, Grand Slam, no Grand Slam, whatever comes, be able to walk away saying, "I really gave it my hundred percent, I gave it my best," to be able to walk away from the game being able to be a part of the ATP Tour for so many years, to be able to have those experiences, that's something that I'll treasurer for the rest of my life.

Q. You mentioned the ad campaign, New Balls Please, how much pressure do you think there is on the guys like Roddick, after all the accomplishments of this last generation?

MICHAEL CHANG: I think there's a great deal of pressure. I think it was different when we came on tour. We really didn't get any exposure until we won a Grand Slam. I think a lot of the youngsters now, they're getting a lot of exposure. I think it's well-deserved, but it does add a lot of pressure. You know, all of a sudden they're expected to do well in a Grand Slam. They're expected to win the Grand Slams. And that's not easy. Normally, the pressure comes after you've accomplished something tremendous. You know, I think that's where balance comes into play. I think you need to be able to have a really good sense of where you are and know what your capability is, and not let all the hype and things really affect what you know that you need to go out and do out there.

Q. If you're called to play Davis Cup, will you consider playing again for your country?

MICHAEL CHANG: Absolutely. Absolutely. I feel like the US is in a pretty good position to get back into the World Group. Obviously, India is not an easy customer. Hopefully the US team will be healthy. I know Andy is healthy. I know Todd is struggling a little bit. Jan-Michael is struggling a little bit. Yeah, I think, you know, definitely I would reconsider that for sure.

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