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ATP TOUR WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP


November 10, 1997


Michael Chang


HANNOVER, GERMANY

MICHAEL CHANG: Boris, I'd like to wish you a happy 30th birthday. As you probably know, 30 probably isn't as old as they say it is. But we're here in Hannover now, and it's too bad that you can't be here. But we all know that you're still going to be dangerous next year, even though you're going to be playing a few selective events. Say hello to your family for me and take care of yourself.

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Q. What do you think about your group? Is it a good group, strong?

MICHAEL CHANG: I think both groups are very strong. I don't think there are going to be any easy matches this week. They're all great players here, all very talented. You know, you definitely have to be up and ready to go when that first ball is hit.

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Q. Is there a player that you don't like to play against, because you don't like his play?

MICHAEL CHANG: No. I think they're all difficult. I don't have any easy matches. I realize if I'm not in the group that I'm in, I play the other group; it's still just as tough. So, you know, there are no easy matches. They're all difficult to play against.

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Q. What about your strategy? Will you play it from the ground line or would you say it is successful to go to the net and play some volleys, serve and volley, like Sampras, or do you play your game?

MICHAEL CHANG: Oh, I definitely play my game. I don't think it would be in my best interest to serve and volley every point. But to be able to go out and mix it up, my strength is still -- God's given me strength to play well from the ground and to move around the court. You know, I'll use that really as my strong points.

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Q. Are you happy about the decision that the ATP made to make this court a little slower here? Is it, for your play, a little bit advantage?

MICHAEL CHANG: I think it's fair for all the players. You know, the past couple years, the court has been too fast. You know, a lot of players have been complaining about it. I think that this year's court is a lot slower. I think it's going to be better for all the players and for all the people that come out and watch.

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Q. The two groups seem to be technically very different. One Sampras, Rafter, Rusedski, Moya, with strong serves. The other with strong returns. Is it an advantage for you or not?

MICHAEL CHANG: I don't think there's an advantage either way. I think all the matches are going to be tough. Like you said, if you don't have to deal with a big serve, you have to deal with a great return. This week there aren't going to be any easy matches. The players here are great players. We're all coming here to give our best tennis.

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Q. Would you say in your group there would be many more breaks than in the other one?

MICHAEL CHANG: I don't know. I don't necessarily say so. I think there will probably be some longer rallies. Probably you're not going to have as much serve and volley play, except for maybe from Jonas. You know, for the most part, I think the points are going to be technically longer.

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Q. In the first group, you could say that Sampras is the favorite. Between Rafter and Rusedski, probably their match could be the one that decides the second semifinalist. What do you think about your group? Would you say that Bruguera is probably the weakest?

MICHAEL CHANG: No. I don't think anyone's weak. Even if you look at Pete's group, Moya has beaten Rafter earlier this year on hard court, same surface. You know, in that regard, you can't really say that one player is going to come out and one player is the weakest. I don't think that's really something that you can really come out and say.

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Q. What do you think about this surface? How do you compare it with the U.S. Open, for instance?

MICHAEL CHANG: Well, I think it's -- indoors is always going to be a little bit faster; that's natural. I think they've done a great job in making the court surface a lot more fair for all the players. Last couple years, the surface was, I felt, a little bit too fast. Players basically voted on it last year. The majority said it was too fast. They've done a good job. I think this is a surface that will benefit all the players.

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Q. At the end of the year, how do you feel physically? Is it hard to be in top shape all the time?

MICHAEL CHANG: Well, I think it's unrealistic to expect to play your best tennis every single day. You know, your body just doesn't work that way. But I feel that if you make your schedule intelligently, you're able to rest when it's appropriate and be able to work hard when it's appropriate. Hopefully you're able to come out and play the best tennis that you can play on selected weeks. You know, it's, hopefully, something that the players try to do, particularly for the big events.

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Q. If you don't have a close eye on your schedule, you can play too much?

MICHAEL CHANG: Absolutely. You can play almost 35 tournaments, if you wanted to. I think that for me it would be too much. Sooner or later, you know, I wouldn't be able to maintain the same level of play that I would want to.

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Q. How important is this tournament to you?

MICHAEL CHANG: I think the tournament is important for all the players. This is a very special event. When you only have the eight best players in the world, you know, you know it's not going to be an easy tournament to win, not going to be an easy tournament to play, not going to be any easy matches. In that regard, you know, it makes it very, very unique. But at the same time, it's one of those events where the intensity tends to be a little bit higher and the adrenaline is always pumping, so it's great to be a part of it.

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Q. If you compare it to a Grand Slam, is it different?

MICHAEL CHANG: Well, I think it is a little bit different in the sense that the Grand Slam has the total atmosphere, it kind of builds up a little bit as the two weeks go on. Each day kind of builds up. Here, it's already up from the first day. You know, you realize that every player you're going to be playing against is in the Top 10; you can't really go on the court expecting to take your sweet time to get into the match.

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Q. Ten years ago, it was played in New York. Would you prefer to have it in America in a big, big city like that, or is Hannover the right place?

MICHAEL CHANG: Well, I think it really depends on the atmosphere, depends on the crowd. They've held the World Championships here in Germany over the past how many years? They've done a great job because the people are excited about tennis. They come out. The atmosphere is very electrifying. In that regard, I think the players would always want a place that has that kind of reception. Hannover definitely has it.

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Q. Are you sometimes worried about the state of American tennis? You have the first two spots, of course, but the juniors?

MICHAEL CHANG: Well, I think that's something that's always going to take time. In any country, any part of the world, it takes time to nurture the talent. America is no exception to that. I think this past class of players, Pete, myself, Agassi, Courier, Washington, Martin, from this class of players, it really was extremely talented. I don't know if you're ever going to find a group this talented for many, many years to come. But there will definitely be more talent popping up in the next five to ten years, I'm sure.

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Q. The APT Tour, it's your own tour, the players' tour. Do you feel you know what's happening?

MICHAEL CHANG: I think when the players are able to come together and unite on an issue, I think we can get a lot of things done. I think that's pretty evident. I think it's something that players have to, once again, come together on and unite as a force for a particular issue.

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Q. (Inaudible)

MICHAEL CHANG: Well, I don't think that there are going to be any easy matches. Yevgeny had a little bit of bad luck earlier in the year at the Australian, but he's made a strong comeback. Obviously he's playing some good tennis. You know, like I said, there aren't going to be any easy matches. I think that you just can't, you know, expect to have any cake walks this week. You have to be up and ready to go.

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Q. (Inaudible)

MICHAEL CHANG: Yeah. Won Stockholm last week, playing half of the year playing some great tennis. I think it's pretty incredible for him to make a jump as much as he did this year. He's going to be a tough opponent. This is one of the players who is very talented in all aspects of the game: serve, returns, volleys, groundstrokes. Once again, a very difficult opponent.

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Q. Last one, Sergi Bruguera?

MICHAEL CHANG: Sergi is another player who, you know, did well over the course of the year, has been playing some tough tennis. Sergi has been around for a while. He's not an easy player to play against. For me it's going to be a lot of long rallies, a lot of long points. For me, it's going to be important to come out and play some of my best tennis to beat him.

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Q. What do you think of the surface?

MICHAEL CHANG: I think the surface is very good. Over the past couple years here, the surface is a little bit fast. The players, they voted on it last year, and a majority of the players said the court was too fast. They've done a good job this year in slowing it down. I think it's a pretty fair surface for all the players.

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Q. (Inaudible)

MICHAEL CHANG: Well, it obviously is a very important tournament. It's a very special tournament, being that basically you have the top eight players here in the world. In this kind of format, it's an event that is very exciting and the intensity is very high. If you're able to do well here, not only is it going to help you in the rankings and stuff like that, I think it's also going to give you a good bounce going into next year. It's something that I'm hoping I'll be able to do this week.

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Q. Bercy and Stuttgart weren't so good for you. Are you in good shape?

MICHAEL CHANG: I feel pretty good. I was able to take last week off and, you know, rest up, go home for a little bit. You know, hopefully this week will be a different result for me. I think it's important going in with the right perspective, good attitude, and we'll see what happens.

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Q. (Inaudible)

MICHAEL CHANG: It was not that difficult to change. It took me really only about a week to change. I felt like in many aspects, it really helped me out in various parts of my game; I think particularly on my serve. You know, I've been pleased with it for the past three years or so, three or four years.

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Q. (Inaudible)

MICHAEL CHANG: I think for me it's important to be able to go out with a good attitude. Obviously, I want to come out and to play my best tennis. You know, I want to come out here with the right focus and the right priorities. In that sense, I want to be able to go out and achieve those things.

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Q. Big servers on one side and tremendous returners on the other side.

MICHAEL CHANG: Yeah. I think it's one way or the other, big servers or big returners. You don't have any easy players in any group. You know, it's one of those events where everyone's tough. You have the best eight players in the world here, and nobody gets here by playing mediocre tennis.

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Q. When you look at the results over the last month, they haven't been great.

MICHAEL CHANG: That's an understatement (laughter).

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Q. Understatement, okay. Do you think you've overcome that drop in form?

MICHAEL CHANG: Well, hopefully it won't carry on through here. You know, I took the last week off which, hopefully, will do me some good. I was able to go home for a little bit, rest and relax a little bit, able to come in here. I feel pretty fresh. Hopefully, that will help me to bounce back a little bit in my tennis game.

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Q. And with Patrick Rafter breathing down your neck with the No. 2 ranking in the world, was that on your mind at all with this tournament?

MICHAEL CHANG: No, not really. I feel like it's more important to be able to come out here and try to play my best tennis. You know, I think that the ranking and all that stuff will really be secondary. I'm sure that Pat is thinking about winning this event. I'm thinking about taking it match by match and hopefully winning this event. All in all, we know that's really secondary.

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Q. How important do you think it is that you and Pete are the most experienced players at this tournament?

MICHAEL CHANG: Hopefully it will account for a lot. I think it's very true what you have said. You know, Pete and I have played this event for quite a number of years. We have a lot of newcomers, a lot of rookies. Hopefully they'll show it (laughter). Once again, nice players. They know what it takes to do well in the big events. I'm sure they're up and ready to go. You know, although Pete and I have been around for a while, we know how hungry a lot of the youngsters can be. You have a good group of hungry players here who are very talented and very dangerous.

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Q. What is the highlight of being a pro tennis player?

MICHAEL CHANG: I think it's the opportunity to be able to come in contact with so many people. You know, I think it's one of the few professions where you can really go worldwide, coming into contact with so many different people from so many different places, so many different cultures. That's not something that just anybody gets a chance to do. Tennis being a global sport, you know, allows me to have that opportunity.

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Q. What's the worst part of being a tennis player, other than travel?

MICHAEL CHANG: I'd say probably the heavy luggage (laughter). The turbulent airplane rides (laughter). I think those are the things that most people really don't enjoy about travel. Once you get there, it's pretty nice.

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Q. With Becker gone, what effect do you think this is going to have on tennis in general?

MICHAEL CHANG: You know, when you have players like Becker retiring, you know, Edberg last year, this is really a generation of players that are kind of starting to take their step down. Obviously, it would be nice to have them around tennis for their entire lives because they've brought so much to the sport, but there's a time that comes for everything. It will be interesting to see what happens to tennis, particularly here in Germany, you know, where Boris has such a huge role in really bringing tennis to where it is today in Germany. In that regard, you've got to respect Boris' decision to retire. He, like Edberg, was a great ambassador for the game.

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Q. Do you think you've received the attention that is due a No. 2 player in the world?

MICHAEL CHANG: I think that depends on how you look at it. You know, I think respect is something that you have to go out and earn. I think, to be quite honest with you, you know, I think for me it's not something that I'm too concerned about, too worried about, but I do feel that it's one that will accompany another Grand Slam title. I think that is something that is very important. Ranking, obviously, is very important. You know, Grand Slams are just as important. I think when those two go hand-in-hand, in the proper respect in that regard, respect will be paid in a sense. For me, I'm just as happy going about my business, things a little bit more on the quiet side. Works out fine for me. I really have no complaints.

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Q. You talked about being a veteran out here. You still are one of the younger players age-wise, but you're talking about yourself as a veteran. Is that strange?

MICHAEL CHANG: A little bit. I think sometimes people forget that I'm only 25 years old. I think that's probably easy to forget because, you know, maybe people remember the French Open in '89 so vividly. That's almost nine years ago. In that regard, you know, people think, "Well, he's got to be pretty old by now, nine years later." I started early. Hopefully it won't show.

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Q. (Inaudible)

MICHAEL CHANG: I don't think so. No, I don't agree at all. I think for me, I watched a little bit of Moscow. Obviously, the stadium was pretty packed there. It was pretty packed in Stockholm as well. I wasn't around Paris and Stuttgart long enough to really see (laughter). But the other events that I have been to, you know, it's difficult to get tickets. For tournaments in the States, like Indian Wells, Key Biscayne, Cincinnati, it's difficult to come by tickets.

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Q. No empty seats in the States as well?

MICHAEL CHANG: No, not at all.

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Q. Not at all?

MICHAEL CHANG: No. That's something that is kind of strange for me. People say that tennis is down. When you really go to a lot of the events, you know, tickets are tough to come by. For me, it's kind of hard to justify why they say that.

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Q. (Inaudible)

MICHAEL CHANG: I think there will always be. It would always be nice to be able to.

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Q. (Inaudible)

MICHAEL CHANG: I don't think so. No, I don't think so. Everybody's different. Everybody's different. You know, you can't ask a Stefan Edberg to change the way that he is and become a John McEnroe or a Jimmy Connors. Everyone has his own way of handling different situations and stuff.

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Q. (Inaudible)

MICHAEL CHANG: They've been struggling a little bit. Hopefully this week will change things.

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Q. (Inaudible)

MICHAEL CHANG: I played a tournament in Rosmalen earlier this year.

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Q. Still fishing?

MICHAEL CHANG: No, not in Rosmalen.

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Q. (Inaudible)

MICHAEL CHANG: I think there's always a possibility. I don't want to rule out anything.

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Q. (Inaudible)

MICHAEL CHANG: Sometimes scheduling is difficult. Scheduling the tournaments is difficult.

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Q. (Inaudible)

MICHAEL CHANG: It's not a money issue. It's not a money issue. When they collide with tournaments that are so close in the States, like I believe Rotterdam is the week before Indian Wells, I think scheduling is probably a difficult thing.

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Q. (Inaudible)?

MICHAEL CHANG: The centre court was good.

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Q. Some would say you've got the easy group, but it still looks pretty tough.

MICHAEL CHANG: I don't think there is any easy group. I think all the players are tough players. You have the eight best players here in the world. Nobody gets here by playing mediocre tennis. I think on this court this week, really it's going to be -- you can play from the baseline, you can play some serve and volley. Again, it's going to make for some great tennis.

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Q. It's the top eight in the world. What do you make of this place?

MICHAEL CHANG: They do a great job. They really go out of their way to make it very ideal for the players. The spectators and people that come out have really been supportive of this event. They've done a great job also in getting a great atmosphere. That's one of the really exciting things about being part of the professional tennis tour, is to play in that kind of atmosphere where there's a lot of intensity, there's a lot of crowd involvement. This week's not going to be any exception to that.

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Q. Going into the first match, what do you make of playing him?

MICHAEL CHANG: I think against Bruguera, it's not going to be an easy match. There are going to be a lot of long points. It's going to be important for me to play well in order to beat him. You know, he's had a good year this year. He's hungry. He's hungry to get back to where he was. It's not going to be easy.

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Q. You've been to these Championships before. (inaudible)?

MICHAEL CHANG: I hope so. It's something we'll take step-by-step. We'll see what the Lord has planned. Once again, just take things point by point, little by little.

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