Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Chang bids city a final farewell

Fan favorite falls in three sets

By Dustin Dow
The Cincinnati Enquirer


Photos of Monday's play
MASON - One point is all Michael Chang needed to play one more match in Cincinnati.

But the Cincinnati Kid, who has played more tournaments here than anyone else, couldn't break the serve of his first-round opponent, Hicham Arazi, and eventually lost Monday in three sets in the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters. The loss means that Chang, 31, is done playing in Cincinnati. He will end his career at the U.S. Open at the end of the month.

But Cincinnati didn't let him go without a proper sendoff. The Center Court crowd serenaded him with chants of "Let's go Chang" during his match, and five fans wore T-shirts spelling out C-H-A-N-G. After the match, they held a sign that read, "Michael and Carl, Thanks for the memories." Carl Chang is Chang's brother and coach since 1991.

Tournament chairman Paul Flory and ATP Tour CEO Mark Miles presented a framed photo collage to Chang later Monday night at Center Court in front of the evening session crowd of 9,232.

"No player has run faster, tried harder, given more, than Michael Chang," Flory said.

During a 2 1/2-minute speech to the Center Court crowd, Chang joked that he was so appreciated in Cincinnati that he would consider running for public office.

"Part of the reason Cincinnati is such a great place for me is because of the people," Chang said. "You guys make this a very special event. All the hard work that Paul and Bruce (Flory) and the tournament staff go through to make this tournament a world class event. But I really love coming back because of the people here."

The frame commemorated his four finals appearances in Cincinnati, where Chang has been a fixture, reaching four consecutive finals from 1993-96. He won back-to-back titles in 1993-94.

This was Chang's 16th tournament appearance in Cincinnati. He has won 41 matches here - second only to Stefan Edberg's 45 - and lost just 14. Chang has also won more prize money at Cincinnati, $1.1 million, than any other player.

In his final stop here, Chang would have liked to win a match or two.

But Arazi, a qualifier ranked No. 79, fought off a match point during a second-set tiebreaker. Chang, whose ranking is now No. 217, had little fight left for a third set and lost 4-6, 7-6 (6), 6-0.

"You get a match point, and it's a little bit discouraging," Chang said. "My energy level kind of went down, and he picked up his game a little bit, and the third set went pretty quick."

Chang is now 2-8 this year on his "farewell tour." He is playing a limited number of tournaments, primarily his favorites, which has kept him from establishing a competitive rhythm. His tour wraps up at the U.S. Open later this month.

"It's great to still compete in a city you love competing at," Chang said. "Hopefully I can win a couple matches at the Open."


E-mail ddow@enquirer.com

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