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August 6, 1997

Michael Chang


JOE LYNCH: Michael Chang has been in the last 4 Finals here at the Great American Insurance ATP Championships, took the first step in that direction today beating Wayne Ferreira in three sets.

Q. So he should know all of us by first name.

JOE LYNCH: I would think. First question.

Q. You are down 1-6 in the tiebreaker and you battle like a bulldog. You didn't give up at that point. You almost got back to 6-6, didn't you --

MICHAEL CHANG: Almost, actually. I was hoping I would be able to kind of sink my way back in there. You never know when things can happen. You never know when you are able to turn things around and sometimes you are and sometimes you aren't. But, I feel at that stage it is such an important part of the set, that, you know, you can't just let it go. So you never know, sometimes when you might get just a string of shots together and you never know when things can turn around.

Q. You see other guys, though, give up at 1-6, I assume. What do you think when you see that?

MICHAEL CHANG: If it is against me, it is okay. I don't mind. If you can recall McEnroe maybe a couple of years ago watching a match between Krajicek and Siemerink out of Court 16 at the U.S. Open. Krajicek was up 6-Love in the tiebreaker and I believe John said if Siemerink comes back I am going to stand on my head. And, he ended up coming back. And that was probably one of the highlights of U.S. Open that year to see John McEnroe stand on his Head.

Q. Did he do it?

MICHAEL CHANG: He did actually, he did. So, yeah, you never know. You never know.

Q. Then he aced you at 6-4, he was serving at 6-4 aced you. You stood there for a long time looking at it. You had trouble with that same line. What happened on that? We never saw the reply.

MICHAEL CHANG: Obviously it is a matter of opinion. I thought maybe -- well, I mean, you are going to have calls go for you and against you. I guess all and all, when it comes down to it, at the end of your career, it all kind of evens out, you hope. But, it is nothing that you can do. If you see the ball differently than the linesman - and I don't know I don't expect the chair umpire to overall on the far line like that - so....

Q. It wasn't just like a punch to the stomach, that ball was in your eyes just like this, maybe?

MICHAEL CHANG: Well, yeah, but in my eyes, you know, so like I said you are going to have some that go for you and some that go against you. You try to take it in stride and, you know, you try to take it and move on; try not to let it bother you as much as you can. But, who knows. It might have caught, so I might have been wrong, but as tennis players we are kind of like, well, it is always tennis to be a little bit more biased towards your own opinion, but -- yeah, so....

Q. Seems like every year some prominent player comes in here who is riding a bad streak or trying to bring his game back, or focus. And, you have remained remarkably consistent.

MICHAEL CHANG: You are not trying to jinx me, are you?

Q. No. Why are you able to make tennis as big a priority and to play at a high level?

MICHAEL CHANG: You know, I really don't know. I feel like I think for one, when you enjoy coming to a place you tend to do well. You tend to do better. You feel good about where you are. You have fond memories of being here. You enjoy the surroundings and the people. That just makes it easier. My philosophy hasn't really changed. I try to go out and work my hardest and try to come out and play the best tennis that I can play. That is all I can ask of myself. And, winning, losing is out of my mind and in the Lord's hands and sometimes you are able to do well and sometimes you are going to have years where you don't do well. That is just part of life, part of playing on the tennis Tour. But, you hope that each time you come back to places that you enjoy, you hope that you stick around for the whole week.

Q. Not just this tournament in particular, but your game has stayed steady. You have seen other guys who fluctuate a lot more. Do you think you are mentally tougher than a lot of guys out there?

MICHAEL CHANG: I don't know if it has to do with mental toughness. I don't know what it has to do with. I think for me a lot of it has to do with scheduling. If you are smart about your schedule then you are going to be a little bit fresher coming into certain -- to tournaments. Obviously if you are playing week in, week out, then sooner or later your body is going to say, well, look, I can't keep this up and not be able to maintain the level. Nobody is able to maintain the level up here for the whole year. I mean, it is impossible to do. So you are going to have times where you don't play well, then you slip. You lose early. And, you know, you just take it and try to make it a better week the next week. But, for me, I think that it is nice that I am always -- I am able to feel I can keep a good balance in my life too. It is nice to be able to have family travel with me, so, it is not something where it is just tennis, tennis, tennis, all the time. We are able to go out and do things and relax and, you know, we go home go fishing and take our minds off tennis and the game, just way we are refreshed, we are able to come back work hard, rejuvenate, and eager to get out there and practice and work hard.

Q. Do you have to go through an evolution to reach the point where you even get balance in your life where you can play as well as you do -- not be consumed by tennis?

MICHAEL CHANG: I think if you are a young player I think it is important to get your priorities straight. If you don't have your priorities straight, you are not going to get the most out of the talent that God has given you. I know that there is a lot of, you know, there is a lot of things going on, there is a lot of money involved and obviously if you are out there playing for something other than what you want to get out of the most of the talent, then you feel like -- I would feel like you weren't really reaching your full potential. So, I am not saying that is what some of the guys are doing. I am just saying that is one of the lures of tennis. That is one of the temptations to get your mind off of what where you need to go. And there are a lot of distractions, too, which can really take its toll on a young person's mind. I can tell you that from experience. Maybe pressures coming from outside, but, all and all, a lot of it sometimes is a pressure that you put on yourself because you hear of all the other pressures, hear of all the other expectations around you and it is important to have a good balance, a good priority, straight priorities. And, I think it is important that you have people around you who help you and guide you in the right way and are for your best interest.

Q. You said you like coming here. Can you talk a little bit about the Cincinnati area and the people you have met over the last few years, why do you like this place?

MICHAEL CHANG: I like this place because people are excited about tennis. People are excited to come out to watch. You don't have -- I mean, if you are looking at the practice courts, you think like another match is going on out there. And people are just excited about the game. It is nice to be able to around people who are friendly, you know, who just are easy to get along with. Just makes things really comfortable. Makes things fun. You almost feel like when you are able to come back year after year you are out there on Center Court, you are playing a tough match and people are clapping, you feel like - in certain ways - you kind of feel like you know everybody and it is a nice feeling. On top of that, Paul does a great job in running this event. Players are spoiled. You have got one of the best facilities on the Tour. Got pretty okay cars to drive around (laughter). So, you know, players are able to go and relax, go to Kings Island or go to the beach or go play golf. Just a lot of things to do and be able to come out here and say, well, I have had a lot of fun, now let us come out and play some great tennis.

Q. Are you more susceptible more now than you were four, five years ago to burnout?

MICHAEL CHANG: No, I don't think so because I feel that in my career I feel like I have a lot of things that I still want to accomplish, a lot of goals still ahead of me. I don't know if I am going to be able to attain all of those goals. Something that I will just have to kind of wait and see. But, I feel like I have so many things to improve upon my game that, you know, I am excited to work on those and improve those. Excited to hopefully take my game to another level and, you know, it is funny because I have been -- this is my 10th year on Tour and, quite honestly, it has gone on like that. You know, I think that it's gone by a lot faster than I have ever thought and, you know, it is kind of scary in certain instances to have, you know, Stefan who is 30 years old or Boris who is what 29, 30 years old retiring and to think myself I am 25 and five years, you know, hopefully I will keep going like the Energizer Bunny. But, you know, it is kind of scary in a sense to have those thoughts. But, other than that, I feel like I still feel like my best tennis is ahead of me.

Q. Do you think there is any physical reason why a player can't be near the top of their game when he is into his 30s or into his 30s?

MICHAEL CHANG: I don't think so. Physically, I don't think so. I think probably more maybe some other people would disagree with me, but I don't think 30 is at all that old. I don't know hold you guys are, but I don't think 30 is that old. If your body is starting to breakdown by 30, you know, you have got to figure something is not right. So, I just don't see it happening. I think a lot of it is mental. At least that is my approach to it is mental because people think, well, it is a young man's sport, which it is, but I think when are struggling, people remind you of how old you are constantly and you think to yourself well, I am getting older, I am getting older, and then you start maybe thinking that maybe because you have an off day you are not moving quite as fast that maybe it is because of age. I don't believe that. You could ask me that when I am 30, but -- I don't think so.

Q. How many tennis players are playing at this level at 30? Not many.

MICHAEL CHANG: Well, I think that you can take a lot of good examples although the Tour is a little bit different. I think the Tour is a lot more demanding now in this day and age than it was, say, ten years ago. That is for sure. I think back then the top guys were able to breeze through the first few rounds pretty comfortably and not have to really worry about losing early. Now, you take a look at a field like this, you are concerned about the first round, concerned about the second round because you know these guys are tough. The guys are talented. The depth of men's tennis is a lot greater. And, you know, when you have all that, guys are playing a lot more tournaments now too, and, all that, you know, probably does take its toll. But, --

Q. How much would it change for you -- do you think -- having not been No. 1, you have been close, if you were No. 1 the focus all turned to you, do you think that would change it for you? Do you think the mental aspect and the focus and all the attention would be different --


Q. -- The pressure the strain?

MICHAEL CHANG: I hope not. I think -- I feel like if I was able to become No. 1, I feel like in a sense you are able to have an even greater impact on people and that is what I really feel is my primary calling as far as tennis. And I think that, you know, I feel like I would be able to impact, in particular, the Asia community even stronger than what it has been in the past. Hopefully all the other things wouldn't get to me. But, I will worry about that when the time comes.

Q. Is that something that -- is that one of the things that you really want to accomplish? Is that something that you feel --

MICHAEL CHANG: It is something that I would like to look back at my career and say that I was No. 1. I think that is special in any field. It is just to be able to say, you know, in all the world that you were the best at what you did. Not every one is able to attain that and it will be nice to be able to reach that. But, yes, don't want to get too absorbed to becoming No. 1 if it is going to hurt other aspects of my life. And, you know, I feel at this stage, just take things day by day and take things in stride and, you know, at the same time, you know, like I was mentioning out there, if it is the Lord's will then it will happen. I feel like at this point in time I just need to concentrate on my game and as long as I make king progression in the right way, which I feel like I have been over the past, you know, six, seven years, then I should feel good about things.

JOE LYNCH: Maybe help Corretja with his forehand passing shot.

MICHAEL CHANG: It is in the past. In the past.

Q. Is Sampras catchable, maybe not this year at the end of the year, but is he?

MICHAEL CHANG: Pete will always be catchable. I think that the thing is that he is human so he will always be catchable. Obviously he is playing some great tennis this year; particularly in the Grand Slams. He is at this point in time playing at another level, above the rest of the field. As a fellow professional, you don't like saying that, but when you come down to being real, you know, it is a fact, it is true. And, you know, you feel like the nice thing that for me, is that I grew up playing with Pete. First time we played was when we were eight years old, so I feel that in that sense when you grow up playing with someone, you have a certain amount of confidence factor. I think that was something that really worked well for the top American players initially to see -- see me win the French Open in 1989, I am sure that Courier Agassi, Sampras were saying, gee, I beat him in the juniors, you know, he can win a Grand Slam, I can win a Grand Slam. All of a sudden, it started a chain reaction. Then Courier was able to become No. 1. I am sure the other guys say, shoot, Jim can become No. 1, why can't I become No. 1? It was really a great thing. Not only did we push each other in the juniors, but it extended on into the pros, and even continues to this day. So, Pete is catchable, but he is playing some pretty tough tennis right now.

Q. Does it frustrate you that you haven't been able to get to No. 1 yet?

MICHAEL CHANG: I think in certain times it has. But I think those are the times where --- it is funny because when I start absorbing my mind with becoming No. 1 and realizing, well, if I win the tournament I can become No. 1 I don't play as well, for some reason. I think that -- I think it comes back to the priority thing. That is not my top priority as far as tennis is concerned. I am not able to relax and play the tennis that I can play, which is something that I have learned.

Q. Were you ever in that position where winning a tournament will make you No. 1?

MICHAEL CHANG: Absolutely. Quite a few times.

Q. And you didn't win?

MICHAEL CHANG: And I didn't win. Well, U.S. Open last year was a good example. I think the French Open or Wimbledon -- actually if I won Wimbledon, I think it would have been the same situation, yeah, quite a few events.

Q. Are you surprised that you didn't -- the breakthrough and winning the Grand Slam in 1989, are you surprised that you haven't won one since then?

MICHAEL CHANG: 1989 will always be a surprise. It was something that I nerve expected. I don't think anybody in the tennis world expected. It was just something that, you know, I look at it and I honestly, I look at it as a miracle. Guy's 17 years old, only been playing on clay for about two years, he has won one tournament, comes into the French Open and just has a dream two weeks, you know, I think that in certain instances, you know, it is kind of frustrating not being able to get the next one, then you have got to flip it and say, well, when you have won in 1989 it wasn't something that you expected either. So, for me, I am able -- I feel like it is important to take both things, I feel like God has his purposes for everything, and, you know, if I don't win another Grand Slam, then as long as I feel I have worked my hardest and tried my hardest, that is all I can ask of my myself and that is all people can ask of me. I think at this point I will be able to walk away from the game and say, well, I gave it my all. I came close, but fell a little bit short of what I wanted, but, you know, I gave it my best and that is all that I could give.

Q. Your family travels with you, how many members of your family travel?

MICHAEL CHANG: My brother Carl and my sister-in-law Diana travel with me full-time. Carl has been my coach for the past five years, six years. My sister-in-law Diana has been travelling for the past year and a half. And, periodically my parents travel to selected events. Although probably go over to the tournaments in Asia because we need a little bit more help there. And some of the Grand Slam tournaments just to be a part of that. My dad is a tennis nut. And, sometimes we go to Grand Slams and we can't find him and we just leave him there (laughter). So, you know, it is nice. It is nice to be able to have my family there because we have always been very close, and I realize that in my life I wouldn't be where I am without my family. Everybody plays a very important role as far as this team and, you know, if I didn't have one person in that team I wouldn't be where I am.

Q. Could you point to one or two things about your game that are different now than when you first came here when you won the French Open?

MICHAEL CHANG: I think for one my serve. I think for one, serve, and I think No. 2 -- can I name 3? I feel like serve is one. Power is another. And I feel like the third one is ability to be able to attack. And not be afraid to do it. I think back then I'd get to the net and if I didn't hit a good shot I wouldn't set up an easy volley, didn't know quite where I was. Serve was never an issue back then. It was a way to start the point. I don't think I would be able to get away with that nowadays and still be ranked No. 2 in the world. Power a factor. I think that that is something that has come over the years just trying to get a little bit stronger, trying to bulk up a little bit because sometimes on the Tour power is a strategy. And sometimes you have to fight power with power. And it is difficult to be always be on the -- on your heals if a guy is hitting so hard and so we worked on that aspect if a guy hits hard and you hit hard back. And, it is nice to be able to do that and then I feel like all the other things have little changes here and there. But for the most part, strength has still been my ability to move around the court and my groundstrokes. And then also just staying solid up in the head, not letting things get out of control and just staying calm about situations and trying to think my way through.

Q. Did getting close to No. 1 have any effect on Wimbledon this year?

MICHAEL CHANG: I like to tell you yes. But, unfortunately not. It is funny because I lost first round this year, I lost first round last year. But I felt my preparation was one of the best that it could have been this year. I think that grass will always be the most difficult surface for me to play on and that for me creates an added challenge to be able to go there and do well and hopefully win Wimbledon one day. But, it didn't really have that factor there. I went out and I tried to play the type of tennis that I wanted to play out there at Wimbledon and unfortunately that day my opponent was a little bit better than I was. Yeah, actually, he had a great Wimbledon overall, semis, singles and winning doubles for the fifth straight time. So, that, in a sense, kind of comforts me a little bit saying well, you know, kind of snuck my way back in that fifth set and, you know, it was kind of close to wining it. But, that is the way things go. But, yeah, it didn't have a factor. I wish it did, but I have no excuses I went out and played good tennis, but he was better.

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