On Saturday, July 12, the International Tennis Hall of Fame will induct its Class of 2008 – Michael Chang, Mark McCormack and Gene Scott – in ceremonies at the home of the Hall of Fame, The Casino in Newport, Rhode Island. Hall of Fame journalist Bud Collins profiles all three inductees in his just-off-the-press book THE BUD COLLINS HISTORY OF TENNIS ($35.95, New Chapter Press, click here for 39 percent discount). Today, we present to you the profile of Michael Chang.
Michael Chang was cramping so badly that he couldn’t risk sitting down on the changeovers. What did it matter that hot 1989 afternoon in Stade Roland Garros? Michael, a California teen-ager, was far behind No. 1 Ivan Lendl in the fourth round of the French Open, and his chances looked empty. Nevertheless, 17-years, 95 days-old, Michael was filled with hope and grit, and kept running and retrieving to pull himself back into the match from two sets back-and actually take it away from Lendl, the three-time champ, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3, in 4:39.
That was the start of an electrifying, unlikely dash to the title that had last been held by an American man, Tony Trabert, 34 years before, and made little Michael the youngest of all male possessors of a major singles. Despite his lack of clay court experience, Chang followed up on Lendl by out-dueling guys brought up on it: Ronald Agenor of Haiti, Andrei Chesnokov of the USSR and finally, dodging a gang of break points, defeating No. 3 Stefan Edberg, 6-1, 3-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 in the final.
Those were the early steps to the 2008 posting in the Hall of Fame for 5-foot-9, 160 pound Michael. Perpetual motion personified, making few mistakes, he would be a finalist in three more majors (1995 French to Thomas Muster; 1996 Australian to Boris Becker, and 1996 U.S., to Pete Sampras), play a vital role in the American Davis Cup triumph of 1990 and bank 33 more titles, runnerup in 21 others.
During two chilly, damp afternoons in Vienna, with horn-blowing crowds of 18,000 cheering against him, Michael scored one of the greatest U.S. Davis Cup victories. Deadlocked 2-2 with Austria in the Cup semifinal, Chang found himself trapped, two sets behind Horst Skoff. He hung on to win a set before darkness intervened. Returning the following day, his serve, like his legs, revived, Michael won, 3-6, 6-7 (4-7), 6-4, 6-4, 6-3. He and Don Budge (who turned the trick in 1937 against Gottfried von Cramm of Germany) are the only U. S. Cuppers to win a decisive fifth match from two sets down.
In the final, ending a U.S. Cup slump of eight years, Chang beat Darren Cahill, 6-2, 7-6 (7-4), 6-0, the first day, for a 2-0 lead over Australia, soon defeated. He was the youngest on an American Cup winner. His record in Davis Cup; played six ties; four years, 8-4 singles.
This diminutive dynamo, a speedy right-hander with both-handed backhand, was born Feb. 22, 1972, in Hoboken, N.J. of Chinese-American parentage, raised in Southern California. He was coached by older brother, Carl Chang, a University of California-Berkeley varsity player.
Edberg caught up with him in 1992, Chang losing a record-length U.S. Open match in 5:26 (a semifinal), the second longest major singles, 6-7 (3-7), 7-5, 7-6 (7-3), 5-7, 6-4. In a 17-year professional career, he made the world’s Top 10 seven years-No. 5 in 1989, 95; No. 6 in 1992, 94; No. 8 in 1993; No. 2 in 1996; No. 3 in 1997.
Prior to his 2003 retirement, he made the semis of the Australian two other times-1995 and 97; two other U.S. semifinals-1992 and 97 and the quarters of Wimbledon in 1994. He won 34 singles titles (662-312 matches) and $19,145, 632 in prize money.