March 26, 1996
KEY BISCAYNE, FLORIDA
GREG SHARKO: Michael advances to the quarterfinals here. He'll be taking on the winner of Ivanisevic/Andrei Medvedev. Questions for Michael?
Q. Did you feel that the match this afternoon was more difficult than you anticipated? Did you feel that you were scrapping more than you normally do? Was it hot out there or what?
MICHAEL CHANG: It was hot out there and I was definitely trying to run down a lot of balls. I know that Petr is a very talented player. I think on particular days where he's playing quite well, he can be a very dangerous player because he's very much a shot maker, he goes for his shots. When those balls are going in, pretty much he gets on a roll. I felt today the momentum kind of shifted a little bit from that 4-3 game in the second set. I was fortunate enough to be able to get the break back in the third set. Petr was kind enough to double-fault twice for me. The 3-4, that helped out quite a bit, you know, made a huge difference. Other than that, the match was very tight.
Q. Michael, could you talk a little bit in some detail about the mental difficulty of grinding match after match after match through out an entire season?
MICHAEL CHANG: Well, are you implying that I'm grinding every match?
Q. No. You certainly have to grind a lot of matches during the year, particularly when the clay season starts.
MICHAEL CHANG: I do. I do. That's my style. If it comes down to the point where I have to grind them out, I'll sit there and definitely try to grind them out as best I can. Sometimes I'm able to come through, sometimes not.
Other than that, I'm pretty much trying to take control of the match, trying to finish matches where I can, but obviously in matches like today, for instance, where you have to really get in there and grit your teeth throughout a match like this, for me, when I have to do it, I'm more than willing to try my best in order to do it. For me it's just part of going out and trying your best.
Q. It's exhausting. How easy is it to just say, "Let's play a little more aggressively and not go through this three-hour grinding session today"?
MICHAEL CHANG: I think there's a very delicate balance, though. You could say, "Let's play aggressive and go for it," but you don't want to be making a whole lot of errors, giving your opponent free points here and there. For me, I still want to definitely play some more tennis. I don't want to play a make-it, miss-it type of style, type of match. That's not really my cup of tea.
Q. You played three matches already with Agassi, very well could have won all three of them. Do you feel like maybe he is a little less reluctant to grind this year than last year?
MICHAEL CHANG: It's a little hard to say. It's a little hard to say because we had a match last year actually in Atlanta on clay that was a very long match, a very tough match. He was there grinding with me till the end. I was fortunate enough to be able to squeak that through, but he was there fighting. You know, I think Andre, it really depends on his mentality. I think that his style is really not the type of style that's really grinding out matches. He's the one taking the initiative, trying to dictate points, set up his shot and go for the winner. He's not the type of player who is going to be running down a lot of shots. He's the type of player that likes to make people run a lot of shots down. I don't know if you can ever really say that Andre is a grind-it-out type of player. I think he's always a tough player regardless of how he's feeling.
Q. What then was the difference between the two of you in those three matches?
MICHAEL CHANG: I honestly think that the couple matches that I won I was better than he was. I had the match in San Jose, it was very tight, up a break at 4-2. Andre raised his level of play. I wasn't able to combat that. He was able to win the set 6-4. You know, you're going to have matches some days where you feel really good and other days where you don't feel so good. I think for top players now, it's really a day-to-day thing. You can't expect because so-and-so plays so-and-so he's automatically going to win. It's a day-to-day thing. In order to beat the best players in the world, you have to be playing your best and you have to be feeling good.
Q. Does being No. 1 matter to you or is it the slams? What is it that would be -- for Sampras, for example, he regards the slam as the thing he really cares about. What is it for you? Is it being No. 1? Is it winning as many slams as possible?
MICHAEL CHANG: No. I think for me it's a little bit different in that I think more on trying to improve my game, trying to concentrate, you know, just do everything a little bit better, just try to solidify every part of my game. From there I know the opportunities to win Grand Slams will come, and hopefully I'll be able to take advantage of those opportunities. I know the rankings and the points will follow that. I don't think you can really look at it the other way around. I'm just taking things in stride and not too concerned about the ranking or the points, just worrying about the tournament at hand.
Q. You've gotten a lot of positive reinforcement for things that you've added to your game over the last few years, two finals of Grand Slams. Do you consider this to be possibly your breakthrough year? You seem to be knocking on the door very loudly.
MICHAEL CHANG: I don't know if it's necessarily a breakthrough year. I don't look at the years since '89 as necessarily being bad years. I think they've definitely been years that I haven't won a Grand Slam title. For me, I feel that my best tennis is still ahead of me. I'm pretty much trying to prepare for those years. Hopefully when everything comes around, everything else will hopefully fall into place.
Q. Michael, Pete's game seems to be off just a shade. Andre is off a little bit. People think you're playing right now the best tennis in the world at this time, not to say it's going to continue next week.
MICHAEL CHANG: Hopefully it will.
Q. Do you feel you're playing the best tennis in the world right now?
MICHAEL CHANG: I think there are a lot of guys, honestly speaking, who are playing extremely well. I think Goran is one of them. I think for him to have some of the results he's had this year so early, it says quite a bit about how well he's playing. Even Pete, Pete has been playing some good tennis, San Jose, Memphis back to back. I don't think you can really count on anybody. You may look at someone's results at the beginning of the year, maybe they haven't been so good, but every week is a different week. I don't think you can really say that anyone's playing any better than anyone else. You kind of look at it as a week-to-week thing. It's really not necessarily my concern whether I'm playing the best tennis of anybody right now. You still have to go out and let your game do the talking, so to speak.
Q. Stefan was talking about how his concentration has slipped quite a bit, and that's really one of the major things that have made him leave the Tour. Have you ever had a period of time in your career where your concentration was a trouble spot or gave you any trouble, or is that the one thing you've always been able to maintain?
MICHAEL CHANG: I mean, I've had times where I've been tired. That's when scheduling comes into play. I think Stefan is a little bit different. The reason Stefan is a little bit different, his priorities have shifted a little bit with family and with little Emily. On top of that, Stefan has accomplished a heck of a lot during his career. Besides being No. 1, he's won every single Grand Slam title except for the French. I think that for him, he's always had a lot of challenges ahead of them, and he accomplished many of them. For me, I don't feel like I'm going to really have that difficulty because I have so many challenges left ahead of me. I'm hungry to go out and meet those challenges and hopefully conquer them. That's always been one of the wonderful things for me as far as tennis is concerned, ever since the junior days, whether it was to win a certain tournament or beat a certain player, always challenges ahead of me. To this day it still applies.
Q. Michael, with the longer racquet, do you get more leverage, power, whip in your shots? Have you had to readjust the way you volley with the longer racquet? Has that been a period of adjustment in that?
MICHAEL CHANG: No. It took me two weeks to adjust to everything. I do choke up a little bit on the volley, but then again, I think some of the best volleyers in the world choke up a little bit. If I'm stretched out a little bit on the volley, I have the capability of extending my racquet a bit more.
Q. Was that to keep the length of the racquet the same as you used to play with?
MICHAEL CHANG: No. It was just to get a little bit more control. I think that volleyers like to have everything very close to their body, not too close, but very comfortable. You get the most power and the most control that way. So for me I really haven't had to make any adjustments at all. The only minor adjustments I've had to make, at the beginning when I first started using the racquet, I had to shift my feet a little bit more because the sweet spot moved a little bit on my ground strokes. Other than that, I had to toss my -- toss the ball a little bit higher on my serve. Other than that, it took me two weeks to get things down where I didn't think about it any more.
Q. Did you decide to haul off and whale on that final serve?
MICHAEL CHANG: I think in that kind of situation, you get a feeling. For me, you know, I had the opportunity. I'm up 40-15, I've got a first serve, I've got to go for it, so yeah.
Q. I understand that you're already looking forward to the US Open and that you've been sort of doing some things with your schedule to help you focus on that. Are you planning on doing anything different this summer in terms of your training or personal regimen to help you at the Open?
MICHAEL CHANG: I think as far as planning for Grand Slam tournaments or the year, most of their players do their schedule October or November of the previous year. For me, I definitely want to make a schedule that works quite well so that I go into a tournament fresh mentally and physically, up and ready to go. My best tennis is there. Others want to be able to play their best tennis during the Grand Slam events. I have fiddled a little bit around with the schedule for the summer, but I don't think it's too heavy, it's not too light. Hopefully things will work out well for me.
GREG SHARKO: Anything else for Michael? Thanks, everyone.
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