Class of 2008
World No. 2 (1996)
Grand Slam Results
1-time major champion, 3-time finalist
Overall Record: 673-345
Singles Record: 662-312
Doubles Record: 11-33
Member of the U.S. Davis Cup Team 1989, 1990, 1996, 1997
Member of the 1990 U.S. Championship Davis Cup Team
Overall Record: 8-4
Singles Record: 8-4
Michael Chang holds the distinction of being the youngest male player to win a major championship, winning the French Open title in 1989, at 17-years, 95 days old.
Chang was months away from turning 18 when he defeated Stefan Edberg to win his major title, which sent ripples throughout the tennis world, but no one should have been surprised. Chang was a prodigious junior player, winning a slew of USTA Championships as a youngster playing in older age divisions. He won the Fiesta Bowl 16s when he was 13, the USTA Boys 18s Hardcourts when he was 15, and if you dig deep into the US Open record books, you’ll find that he became the youngest men’s player in history at age 15 years, 6 months to win a match in the main draw, defeating Paul McNamee in the first round. In 1988, at 16 years, 7 months, he won his first ATP tour title in San Francisco, defeating Johan Kriek.
Aligned at the time with a burgeoning group of young American players that included Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, and Jim Courier, it was the 5-foot-6 dynamo Chang who became the first to win a major singles title. Chang may not have been odds makers’ first choice, but he topped Sampras (US Open, 1990), Agassi (Wimbledon, 1992), and Courier (French, 1991) as the quickest to place his name in history as a major championship.
Chang’s French Open victory earned him major distinctions: He became the first American man to win the French since Tony Trabert in 1955, and the first American male to win a major since 1984. When the world rankings came out one month prior to the 1989 US Open, Chang became the youngest player ever ranked in the world Top 5. The tennis community marveled at his willpower and grit. Chang was seeded No. 15 at the French, a fry cry from heavyweights Ivan Lendl (No. 1), Boris Becker (No. 2), Edberg (No. 3), Mats Wilander (No. 4), and Agassi (No. 5). Few may recall that Chang’s second round victory came over unseeded Pete Sampras, 6-1, 6-1, 6-1 or that he rolled over Spain’s Francisco Roig in the third round, 6-0, 7-5, 6-3. What many do recall is his amazing comeback upset win over No. 1 Lendl in the fourth round, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3. Lendl had won the Australian Open in January and won the French Open in 1984, 1986, and 1987. Lendl looked strong, and was in complete control of the match. Chang, meanwhile, started suffering leg cramps in the fourth set, but revitalized himself and won both the third and fourth sets with unusual tactics, including looping balls and going for all out winners with his potent forehand. He prepared to return Lendl’s serve by closing in on the service box instead of his normal position on the baseline, and even surprised Lendl by serving underhand. Chang battled the leg cramps and considered retiring in the fifth set leading 2-1, the pain and anguish showing on his face on every point. In 4 hours, 39 minutes, Chang won the fifth set to complete the upset, and remarkably had enough fuel in his tank to defeat Haiti’s Ronald Agenor in four sets in the quarterfinals, Russian Andrei Chesnokov in a four-set semifinal marathon, and then amazingly knock off No. 2 Edberg after being down 2-1 in sets, 6-1, 3-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2, for his major championship. He had played 21 grueling hours and 261 games.
“I never give away points,” Chang always maintained. “I always try, even if I am down triple match point in the final set with the score 5-zip.”
Though Chang reached the 1995 French Open final (5-7, 2-6, 4-6 lost to Thomas Muster), the 1996 Australian Open final (2-6, 4-6, 6-2, 2-6 loss to Boris Becker), and the 1996 US Open final (1-6, 4-6, 6-7 loss to Sampras), nothing in his career rivaled his 1989 French Open championship. He won 34 titles, 662 matches and rose to No. 2 in the world in September 1996, but the images of a severely cramping Chang at Roland Garros still fighting on one leg are forever etched in tennis history. He made two concerted runs at the US Open as a semifinalist in 1992 and 1997, and as a semifinalist at the Australian in 1995 and 1997.
Chang played four years on the U.S. Davis Cup team, and played a pivotal role in the 1990 championship over Austria in the semifinals and Australia in the finals. He won a huge five setter after being down 2-0 in sets against Horst Skoff in the semifinals and ousted Aussie Darren Cahill in the finals to earn the U.S. its first Davis Cup title since 1982.
Chang won at least one ATP title for 11 straight years, a streak that ended in 1999. He retired in 2003. He released a book about his career, Holding Serve: Preserving On and Off the Court in 2002. He has most recently taken on the role of coach for Japanese No. 1 Kei Nishikori.
Australian Open: F 1996
French Open: W 1989
Wimbledon: QF 1994
US Open: F 1996