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August 26, 1997

Michael Chang


Q. Your impressions of the new surroundings, new stadium?

MICHAEL CHANG: Well, it's quite impressive. I didn't know that they would change it quite as much as they have. You know, they've really done a fantastic job. Just with the courts and stadium and everything, it's very convenient to get to. I think it just makes it a lot easier for everybody. Pleasantly surprised. I thought, actually, last year they were going to get the stadium up. I didn't know they were going to add everything else and have everything ready. To the people who have gotten things done, to build a new stadium, definitely a job well done.

Q. How is the speed of the court? Do you think it favors a serve and volleyer or a baseliner?

MICHAEL CHANG: I think it's playing pretty medium fast, like a typical hardcourt should. The wind still swirls a little bit, but it was swirling around last year's stadium court as well. Other than that, it's playing pretty nice.

Q. Michael, last year you were, in a manner of speaking, one point away from being the No. 1 ranked player in tennis here. What were you telling yourself coming in this year? Do you ever think about that and how close you got and can you pull it off?

MICHAEL CHANG: I think it's always kind of in the back of my mind. Given a choice, it would always be nicer to be able to take the No. 1 spot from somebody rather than for somebody to lose a match and to get it that way. But I feel like last year I was definitely pretty close on a couple occasions. I feel like at this particular time, to concentrate on No. 1 is not something that, you know, I necessarily quite want to do to be honest with you. I think it's pretty fair to say that probably by the end of the year, it would be a little bit difficult to catch Pete by the end of the year. For me, you know, I feel like I just need to go out and concentrate on my game. I feel like if it's one of those things that's going to happen, then it will happen. For the present time, I'm just being patient, trying to do the best that I can when I go out and play the matches.

Q. A lot of people see Pete as being so far ahead of the field this year, maybe more so than some of the other years he's won. Do you kind of see him that way, is he that far ahead of everyone?

MICHAEL CHANG: As far as his play or as far as his being No. 1?

Q. As far as his play.

MICHAEL CHANG: I think that he's definitely playing, you know, a bit above everyone else at this particular time, considering he hasn't played all that much this summer. He's only played a couple of events. I think obviously it looked like he was playing some pretty darn good tennis. The nice thing is that, you know, Pete's human. I think that's something that you always have to take into consideration when you come to a major event. I think there are a lot of guys capable of winning this event, but at this point of the tournament, I think it's fair to really favor Pete at that stage.

Q. Who comes to mind when you say "a lot of guys are capable of winning"?

MICHAEL CHANG: Well I think Kafelnikov is playing some tough tennis. I think when you look at the top guys, Top 10, even some guys outside of the Top 10, they all have great potential. That's what makes men's tennis interesting nowadays, the depth is so great. You don't have, you know, just a small handful of guys winning events; you've got so many talented players out there, really you can't go down the whole list. I would have put Goran in there before yesterday's match. Obviously guys like Enqvist, Rafter has been playing well, Philippoussis is always dangerous, the Spaniards. You've got such a good depth of men's players.

Q. Did you happen to watch the celebration last night?

MICHAEL CHANG: I did actually. I did.

Q. What were you thinking? Was there any moment where you were saying, "Boy, I want to be out there"?

MICHAEL CHANG: Well, I'm not going to kid you. I think in a sense, you know, when you watch something like that, you're quite amazed. I think obviously just to get a chance to be out there with those kind of legends who have played the game and have been successful here at the Open I think is wonderful. I think to be able to have a celebration like that, you know, to honor Arthur and the new stadium and stuff, is really fantastic. I don't know if the US Open has really had something like that for quite some time, you know. But to be able to have something like that, have Whitney come out and sing, I think it brings a lot of excitement to the game of tennis. It would be nice to be able to see a little bit more of that, particularly in the bigger tournaments. For me, you know, there was a little bit of envy in there. I admit that. It would be nice to be able to be out there. At the same time, even as a spectator, I felt like it was great to be able to watch that and still be a part of it.

Q. You watched it on TV, right?


Q. (Inaudible)?

MICHAEL CHANG: No. I stay with relatives when I'm here in New York. It was exciting. You just look at the players' faces. For them, it was an honor to be able to say you were a US Open champion, and on top of that to be out there with that kind of celebration, that kind of atmosphere. It doesn't happen often.

Q. Michael, you were on America On-Line a couple of weeks ago. You have a real popular website. Do you yourself go on line whenever you can or are you not into the Internet at all?

MICHAEL CHANG: I check my e-mail quite often. It doesn't always say that I have mail (laughter). Yeah, I do periodically. For me it's a great way to keep in touch with friends, and also to be able to kind of keep up-to-date on what's going on with some tournaments. Knowing that I can get results before I get the morning's paper.

Q. You answered one of my questions. I said what's a don't-miss place in New York. You said the Chinese food restaurant next door some place.

MICHAEL CHANG: Actually, I went on Saturday, which was pretty nice. It's not a normal tennis diet. When I found out I would play on Tuesday, I figured I better get it in my system and out of my system before the tournament started for me.

Q. Michael, the US Open is often the tournament that the casual fan tunes into, when they may not tune into other tournaments during the year. Does that make it any more important as a player to try to have one of your best weeks or two weeks here?

MICHAEL CHANG: I think just to be able to be at the US Open, you know, this is such an important tournament, I think particularly for Americans. This is really our Grand Slam event. Obviously, it does get quite a bit of coverage. I think just being here at the Open and having the opportunity to come out and to win such a prestigious event that has had such a great history to it, I think last night's a good example of it; just to be able to see so many great champions who have won. It is just one of the tournaments that you hope to win in your career. I never heard anyone say, "Yeah, but I don't want to win the US Open." Of course, everybody here, all the guys, want a chance to win, to be able to lift that trophy on Sunday. It's great. I think you can sense that the people are very excited about this year, in particular, just with the new facilities. I know quite a few people have mentioned they're excited about having a little bit more space to eat on the food court. Just people coming out, spectators, whether they are familiar with the game of tennis or whether they're just beginning in the sport or just coming to watch a great event, players, everyone's really excited. I add myself to that list.

Q. Michael, you said that this is a very important tournament for Americans. Is it even more important this year, to sort of disprove to all the doubters out there that American men's tennis at least is also --

MICHAEL CHANG: I never really understood that comment, to be honest with you. I've heard it on a couple occasions. I heard it over the summer. I really didn't quite understand it, because you've got Pete Sampras, who is No. 1, I'm No. 2. Normally when you have the No. 1 and No. 2 players in the world, you say, "US has got to be doing something right." I think it's true that maybe over the past couple years, some of the American players have been struggling a little bit. Part of that is due to injury. Guys like Todd Martin and MaliVai Washington have had pretty serious injuries that have kept them out. They've had a great impact on the game, particularly in American tennis. Andre has been struggling a little bit. You know, you never know with his talent. He's able to come back, bounce back and play some great tennis. Jim has always been up at the top for so many years. I'm sure he'll find his way back again. I feel like American tennis is still very strong. Pete and I -- Pete is 26. He's a little bit over the hill. I'm not quite there yet (laughter). You know, we feel like we still -- we still feel like our bones are young. We still feel like we're able to play for quite a few more years some of our best tennis. At this point for Americans, hopefully we're not intending to slow down at all. I feel like American tennis is looking pretty good at this time. If you were to maybe say, the Top 10, there's nobody in the Top 10, then maybe you have a legitimate point. I think at this particular time I don't think it's fair for some of the people to say that.

Q. If you had the opportunity to advise the USTA on its development program, what would be a major suggestion to keep the ball rolling insofar as US players at the top?

MICHAEL CHANG: Well, I think for one, actually John McEnroe had some pretty good ideas, just listening to him commentating. I think when you have such a great event like this that gains so much exposure, I know that I never got a chance to come as a kid to watch the US Open or to watch some of the other events, or even get a chance to meet some of the top professionals personally. I never had that opportunity. I know that given a chance to do so, heck, I would take advantage of it. You have to take advantage of tournaments like the US Open, which gains so much exposure. Kids are excited to come. You have to make it accessible to come, introduce them to the game of tennis. It's different when you're able to watch something on TV, it's different when you're able to go and see it in person, to actually see someone that you've seen on TV and watch them play or have some kind of interaction, make it accessible for them. Important events like the US Open, you know, a lot of other tennis events which I think the ATP is trying to get kids to go to, like SMASH Tennis, Davis Cup is another great example. These are really backbone events for the game of tennis. When you get kids excited about it, then they're going to be eager to come out and say, "Let's find a tennis court, let's find a partner, let's beat up on somebody." That's the way interest grows. That's the way, you know, tennis grows. I think that can be said for any sport. I feel like that's really the starting point.

Q. You shied away from Davis Cup competition for a while; you're back now. What brought you back?

MICHAEL CHANG: They've made some changes that I've been pretty pleased with. Obviously Gully has done a great job in talking about the USTA. I feel like, to a certain extent, the USTA has made things a lot easier for the top players to come out and play. I know in the past, you know, there was I guess a little bit of just politics, you could say, going on. You know, I think a lot of the top players didn't feel like they kind of had the respect from them like they should. I feel like things have changed a little bit now, and it's good to see. I think it's important that everybody feels good about every aspect. This is a team effort, it's a country effort. As far as the semifinal tie, I'm looking forward to it, as well as the rest of the guys.

Q. Do you think all the talk about American tennis not being so good, criticism of American tennis, is somewhat of a backhanded slap at either you or Pete, the two guys at the very top?

MICHAEL CHANG: I don't know where they draw the conclusion, though. See, that's the funny thing.

Q. Because there are 15 Spaniards ranked within the Top 100, and not as many Americans. Beyond you guys, there's a gigantic drop-off.

MICHAEL CHANG: I think as far as that, that goes to show you that Spain is doing something right. You know, I think those guys don't get there because the Americans aren't doing well. Those guys get there because they're playing tough tennis. You know, I think, like I was mentioning earlier, you do have quite a few more guys maybe in the Top 10, Top 20, struggling a little bit. Other than that, I mean, what can you say for Mal and for Todd? When they weren't injured, they were up there. It's just unfortunate when you have such a serious injury, it takes time to come back.

Q. If you were McEnroe or Connors, that kind of personality, those kind of players, do you think people would be saying the same thing? Do you think people are saying things because Pete is always criticized for not showing emotion, you're a very unemotional --

MICHAEL CHANG: Excuse me (slams table).

Q. Do you feel at all tied to that?

MICHAEL CHANG: No, I don't think so. I think if you had John and Jimmy sitting here, Pete and I sitting here (indicating), I think you'd definitely see a contrast in personalities. At the same time you see contrast in styles. That's not to say that one person is more exciting than the other. I've always made the comment, no offense to John or Jimmy, but if you were to have everybody like them, then tennis would be like, "Where is the other personalities to contrast them with?" I feel like it's true for the other way. It's a little bit difficult to say. Obviously John and Jimmy are a little bit more expressive than Pete and I, but everybody handles things differently. I think that's what makes a lot of the matchups and a lot of the rivalries exciting, is when you have two different styles of tennis going at each other, but then also two different personalities. If it's a tense situation, somebody gets a bad call, you know, John's probably going to get a little upset if it goes against him. Pete and I on the other hand, maybe we'll be a little bit more -- I have to be careful of my words here -- a little bit more maybe controlled, just go up and make our point, move on. I think it's kind of interesting in that aspect, the game, because it is a mental game as well besides the physical aspect of playing.

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