Tuesday, August 07, 2001

Chang's ranking sags, but not his spirit


Former champ just 9-15 this year

By Michael Perry
The Cincinnati Enquirer

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Michael Chang got only his ninth win of the year.
(Gary Landers photo)
| ZOOM |
        MASON — It seems like a typographical error. Michael Chang is 70th in the world. He is tied for 90th in the year-long ATP Champions Race. Just three or four years ago, the popular American was clinging to the hope that he would someday achieve the No.1 ranking in tennis.

        Now he's 29 years old and last won a tournament a year ago in Los Angeles; Chang had no titles in 1999.

        He has never had a losing year since turning pro in 1988, but he is just 9-15 in 2001. Chang hasn't gotten past the second round of any tournament but will have a chance this week. He beat Vladimir Voltchkov 6-1, 6-3 Monday and next faces the winner of No.3 seed Marat Safin-Guillermo Canas.

        “It's been a pretty dismal year,” Chang said. “Results-wise, it's probably been the worst of my career. What's been a little bit tough is I've come so close to winning some of the matches. I don't feel like I'm that far off.”

TODAY'S GUIDE
  • Schedule, results
  • Tickets: 11 a.m., 7 p.m. ($18). Call 651-0303 or TicketMaster at 562-4949.
  • Television: 1-3 p.m., ESPN (live)
  • The bracket
  • Ladies Day: There is a brunch featuring the modeling of sportswear and designer-label fashions. It costs $18 for the brunch, $34 for the brunch and that day's matches. Call 651-0303 for information.
  • High School Tennis Day: There will be an on-court clinic and Skyline Chili lunch for $18 a person, including the day's matches ($16 a person for groups larger than 10; $14 for groups larger than 20). Call 651-0303 for information.
  • More Masters facts
        Pete Sampras beat Chang in Los Angeles two weeks ago 7-6 (8), 7-6 (7). Jonas Bjorkman won two sets on tiebreakers at Wimbledon. And Chang lost in five sets to Andy Roddick at the French Open.

        “I'm not enjoying losing, but I still enjoy working hard and when I'm out there playing,” Chang said. “It's been frustrating at certain times, but for some reason there's still a certain hunger there, and that's important. When I don't have that hunger, then I'm going to go.”

        Chang has more victories in Cincinnati than any active player (39), and he's tied for second with Jimmy Connors on the all-time list — six behind Stefan Edberg. He is a two-time champion and four-time finalist here.

        Last year was the first time he was one-and-done in Cincinnati, losing in the first round to Sjeng Schalken.

        “Michael makes his living with his wheels and his head and his heart,” former U.S. Davis Cup captain Tom Gullikson said. “In today's game, power is the big thing. Michael clearly, just because of his size (5-9, 160), doesn't have that much power. He really can't dictate the tempo of the matches. It's kind of up to the other guys if they win or lose.

        “It could be tough for Mi chael to get back on top again, but I certainly think he could be a very solid top-20, top-30 player.”

        Despite his struggles, Chang said he gives little thought to retiring.

        “Part of my motivation is because I know this continues to be my calling,” Chang said. “I know this is what the Lord wants me to do. I still have a tremendous desire to work hard, to continue to strive for bigger and better things.

        “My results haven't been great, but I look at each day as a new day, a new start. That's my perspective. I hope and I believe that good things are in store.”

       



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