Saturday, March 30, 2013

One of the Greatest Tennis Players of All-Times: Michael Chang

Michael Chang talks about his experience 20 years ago in the 1989 French Open.

Michael Chang is a Chinese-American tennis player. At age 17, he became the youngest player ever to win a Grand Slam singles title when he won the French Open in 1989.

Considered one of the fastest tennis players ever — his on-court speed and fighting spirit were stuff of legend. Chang is considered by many experts to have been one of the best defensive baseliners of all-time — oft credited for introducing the jumping two-handed backhand. He remained in the Top 10 of the ATP world rankings for several years in the 1990s, peaking at World No. 2 in September 1996. Ultimately, Chang was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2008.

Michael Chang was perhaps the very first "breakthrough national sports figure for Asian-Americans" — before Michelle Kwan, before Yao Ming, before Chien-Ming Wang, before Li Na, before Liu Xiang, before Jeremy Lin.

Michael Chang became the youngest player to win the French Open at age 17

Perhaps Chang is most remembered and revered for literally clawing & scrapping his way to the French Open title with borderline "bush-league" tactics such as — moonballing, crowding the service line on returns and the "infamous" and now "legendary" under-hand serve).

"Chang's most famous match took place at the 1989 French Open (on the way to winning his only Grand Slam singles title). In the fourth round, he faced World No. 1, reigning Australian Open champion, and three-time former French Open champion Ivan Lendl. Conventional wisdom made Lendl the heavy favorite to win the match against the 15th-seeded 17-year-old Chang.

Lendl appeared to be on the way to victory after taking the first two sets 6–4, 6–4, and then breaking Chang's serve in the opening game of the third set. However, Chang broke back immediately and went on to claim the third set, 6–3. During the fourth set, Chang experienced a severe attack of leg cramps, and though he won the set to level the match, he considered retiring from the match while up 2–1 in the fifth set. He later said that he felt "an unbelievable conviction in my heart" not to give up, and decided to finish the match.

Chang adopted some unusual tactics in an attempt to overcome his cramps. He hit the ball high into the air on many points to slow the game down (known as "moon balls"), and also began to go for more winners in order to shorten the points. Chang also ate bananas and drank water at every opportunity. The success of these tactics caused Lendl, known to be one of the least easily fazed players, to lose his rhythm, and also prompted him to swear at the umpire and the crowd, especially after losing a key point in the fifth set when Chang shocked him by delivering an under-arm serve.

1989's French Open victory became stuff of legend in Men's Tennis folklore

Chang continued to suffer from cramps, but managed to take a 5–3 lead in the fifth set with two match points on Lendl's serve. Aiming to break Lendl's concentration one more time, Chang stood well inside the baseline, almost at the T-line in the centre of the court while waiting to receive Lendl's serve. The crowd started laughing at the bizarre situation, and Lendl seemed to think everyone was mocking him. The tactic worked, as Lendl produced a double-fault to give Chang the victory, 4–6, 4–6, 6–3, 6–3, 6–3, in 4 hours and 37 minutes. Chang sank to his knees and broke down in tears at the conclusion of the match. Seven days later, he went on to lift the Coupe des Mousquetaires, becoming the youngest male champion in Grand Slam history." — Wikipedia

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