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August 31, 1999

Michael Chang


USTA: Questions for Michael.

Q. Does it feel like you're back on the way to the top of tennis right now?

MICHAEL CHANG: Well, I think whenever you win a first-round match, it's a step in the right direction. I think comparatively, it's been a pretty good summer. I've been able to get some matches under my belt, which has been nice. It's helped my confidence a little bit. Today was a tough one, but it's nice to be able to get through today.

Q. Can you pinpoint a match where it turned around for you this year?

MICHAEL CHANG: Nope, nope, can't do that. You know, I don't know if it's going to be one match, if it's going to be gradual. I think it's difficult to say. There have been times in the past where I have thought things would start to turn around, but they didn't go the way that I had planned. That's okay.

Q. How do you approach the US Open, as opposed to other Grand Slams?

MICHAEL CHANG: I think the US Open is particularly special for the Americans. Obviously, this is our Grand Slam event. We know we have the crowd really behind us and supporting us. I think obviously New York is very unique Grand Slam-wise, just in the setting and the way that the US Open is played. Each Grand Slam has a little bit of a different flavor. I think the US Open is always a place that is filled with a lot of excitement, a little bit of chaos and a heck of a lot of great tennis, a lot of great evening matches. It's just characteristic -- if it's characteristic of the US Open or whether it's characteristic of New York.

Q. Last year and the start of this year, was there ever a point you thought, "My chance is passed, I'm ready to give up"?

MICHAEL CHANG: To be honest with you, there were times when I was very, very frustrated, times where it did cross my mind: This is something -- maybe we should start to think about other things. I think those times really only happened when I was really very frustrated and very discouraged. I think once I started to really think about things, you know, come to my senses, I realized that this is something that I still love very much. I know this is still a place where God wants me to be. I continue to work at and continue to persevere at it. It's taken quite a bit of time, but it's okay.

Q. In LA you spoke candidly, and said at that point you were going through the toughest phase of your career. Do you think you're still going through it, or do you think you've had a breakthrough during the summer?

MICHAEL CHANG: I don't know. I don't feel the same heaviness, I think, when I was in LA. Things are a little bit different now. I've learned a little bit. Learned a lot, actually. Like I said, it's been a pretty good summer, so that helps. I'm just pretty much trying to take things in stride.

Q. You seemed so down then, the weight of the world on your shoulders, sullen, whatever you want to call it. What changed?

MICHAEL CHANG: I think a lot of it is perspective. A lot of it is attitude. I think part of it is maybe not putting so much pressure on myself in certain ways. I think one of the tough things is that I'm a perfectionist. When I'm used to being at a certain level or certain ranking, when I'm not able to maintain that or be in that position, I always feel like there's something wrong, something I'm doing that's not quite right. I feel now like my perspective has changed. It's a little bit more relaxed. I realize that I am, you know, indeed very, very blessed to be able to come out and be able to do something that I really enjoy for so many years. I think this is like my 13th US Open, and I still really enjoy it. I think it's very easy to, you know, forget about those things. It's very, very easy to forget, you know, about the good things when you have a lot of bad things or difficult times that you go through in life.

Q. Did you envision yourself going a number of years more not being a lead player, Top-20 player? Is that a possibility that you could see?

MICHAEL CHANG: I mean, it's a possibility. You know, I think it is -- you know, it's a possibility. I don't know what the future holds. Yeah, I mean, that's a possibility.

Q. You've taken Phillip King a little bit under your wing, worked with him a little bit. Why, and what are some of your reviews on this young player?

MICHAEL CHANG: Actually, I think Phillip is a very talented player. I think he's very similar to me in many ways: Size-wise, obviously being a Chinese-American, same kind of upbringing in a certain way, going through, winning Kalamazoo, doing very well there. I think for me, it just worked out that we were able to hit a few times in LA getting ready for the tournament in LA. I don't feel like I've really taken him under my wing. I feel like obviously there's a certain commonality there that's a little bit unique. I don't know exactly what he's going to do as far as the future. I think he has a bright future ahead of him. He's had some tough draws, though, playing Krajicek here, playing some guy named Sampras at LA. That's tough. He's like, "Wow, this is the Pro Tour." He's going to have his chances. It will be good for him to be able to get out there and play some, you know, see how he does, make his decision from there.

Q. Will you be a sort of mentor to him occasionally as he winds his way through the Satellites?

MICHAEL CHANG: Sure. I feel like -- to be honest with you, I think for All-American players, for all the up-and-coming American players, the guys like Courier and Agassi, Pete, Todd, all of us, you know, we're pretty open to the younger American guys. If they come to us and ask for suggestions or comments, stuff like that, I mean, we're more than happy to share our information or share what we know. It's seen probably more so during Davis Cup than any other time. But then again, us Americans, we practice a lot together.

Q. Why have you struggled in the past year or so?

MICHAEL CHANG: Well, I think it's been a combination of things. I think injury played a little bit of a part of that. I think -- I think just trying to get back into the swing of things. This year, I haven't had to deal with injuries, which has been great. But, you know, tennis hasn't quite been where it has been in the past. It's taken me some time to make that progress and get back to where I was. Yeah, I mean, like I said, it's a little bit tough to pinpoint. I can't really say it's one thing because I think it's been a combination of some things.

Q. If you could be in a room with Pete and say one thing to him now that he's dealing with this injury, what would you say to him?

MICHAEL CHANG: I think Pete's scenario must be pretty serious. Obviously, he's not going to jeopardize a US Open unless it was something that was definitely career-threatening if it wasn't taken care of. I've known Pete to play through some tough times. Actually, he's played through Wimbledon, I remember, one year, where he had some shoulder problems and was thinking about pulling out. He didn't pull out. Ended up going on and winning the event. I'm sure Pete has some good people. He always has some good people there to take care of him. He's been on the Tour for quite a long time. He's been free from those serious injuries, which has been very, very good for him. I'm sure he'll take good care of his body and be back soon.

Q. Do you feel like you're playing like the player you used to be yet? Are you close? How close?

MICHAEL CHANG: No, I don't feel like I'm quite there yet. I'm having fun trying to get back there. That's good.

Q. Everybody goes through these aches and pains throughout the year because of the schedule being so intense, so many tough matches. You, Todd Martin, Courier, Agassi, now Pete, all having some serious downtime. Is it basically that you guys have been out there for ten years playing tennis, and it's inevitable that the body is going to start to break down?

MICHAEL CHANG: I think you can say it's part of it, part of it's the body. But I think maybe a more accurate analysis would be: That's life. I don't know too many people who have gone through life where everything's been rosy. They may think everything is rosy for a period of time, but, let's face it, everybody has their ups and their downs. Unfortunately, you hate to have to go through the downtimes, but it's part of life, and you need to get through them somehow.

Q. You've always said there's a purpose for everything in life. What do you think the purpose of your tremendous struggles over this past period has been?

MICHAEL CHANG: I think for me, to be honest with you, I think it's been a strengthening of my character and my faith, to be totally honest with you. I think when all is said and done, I'll be able to look back and say there was a heck of a lot of good that came out of it.

End of FastScripts….

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