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Unless I missed it, nobody seems to have posted about this yet. It was pretty much assumed, and he had hinted at it before, but this is indeed his farewell tour.



Friday, January 31

The grind of tennis tour has worn on Chang

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Associated Press


Michael Chang's childhood rivals Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras still are winning Grand Slam tournaments late in their careers.


'It's been a great ride,' Michael Chang says.



Chang hasn't won a major since capturing the tennis world with his 1989 French Open victory at age 17 -- a big reason why he's decided to retire following this season, his 16th on the ATP circuit.

His final event will be this year's U.S. Open. Chang kicks off his farewell tour in the Siebel Open starting Feb. 10 in San Jose, Calif., and he spoke about the decision to retire for the first time Friday.

"It's been a great ride, and I still have the last part of the ride to go, and that's something I'm very excited about,'' said Chang, speaking from his home in Mercer Island, Wash.

Chang said his inability to maintain a high level on the court led to his decision. Plus, playing 15 years on the pro tour has taken its toll on him.

But the 30-year-old Chang isn't ruling out winning another Grand Slam before he's done.

"If it's going to happen, it's going to be something miraculous,'' he said. "If it doesn't happen, I can walk away with no regrets.''

Chang said he gave retirement plenty of thought -- noting he's not one to make spur-of-the-moment decisions. When he's done with tennis, he plans to dedicate more time to the Chang Family Foundation, a Christian outreach organization, and possibly take some seminary classes.

Becoming the youngest to win in Paris in his second year on the tour is still a highlight for Chang, who has won 34 singles titles and earned just more than $19 million in prize money. Chang's Grand Slam record is 120-54.

He became the youngest male to win a U.S. Open match at the age of 15 years and six months in 1987 as an amateur. He turned pro the following year. Chang helped the United States win for the first time in eight years in the Davis Cup finals in 1990, and represented the United States at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.

But the demands of tennis haven't been easy for Chang in recent years, he said. While he is happy to see the men he grew up with keep on winning, he wishes he could have had similar success.

Both Agassi, who just won the Australian Open, and Sampras also are entered in the Siebel Open. Chang won his first tournament in the Bay area as a rookie in 1988, failing to drop a set through five matches.

"The last few years have been a little bit of a struggle,'' Chang said. "I'd like to go out and give it one last push and give it my all. I feel like I've been so blessed to be on the tour. To play at this level for so many years has been tremendous.''

Chang can be satisfied with his career "as long as I know inside my heart I've given 100 percent.''

He didn't want to announce his retirement after this season, because he believed it was appropriate to thank fans, tournament directors and the rest of the tennis community along the way.

"I didn't want to play a last tournament and say, 'Thank you very much' and walk away from the scene,'' he said.

He will always have fond memories of growing up competing with Agassi, Sampras and Jim Courier. They pushed each other then, and they offer support to each other now, Chang said. The 5-foot-9 Chang first played Sampras at age 8 and stood taller than the 6-1 Sampras then.

"I think that if Andre and Pete had retired already, I think I would have retired already,'' Chang said. "If I was on tour and didn't see them, it would seem like something was missing.''

They might feel the same way without Chang.
 

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It's a pity, but it's hardly a surprise. Chang's game by its very nature always meant that every match was a tough one for him; he didn't have the overt attacking weapons of Sampras and Agassi, he was a hustler using speed, mobility and determination to wear down his opponents. As such, he's inevitably been hurt by the demise of attacking players who come at him and has been forced to grind it out from the back with people who can hit groundstrokes better than him.

When he played Cincinnati last year and beat Haas and Vicente, he actually mentioned in interviews that he'd had to change his game against these guys, take balls earlier and hit harder rather than scrap and run down everything, as they were too good to fall victim to this style of tennis. It's something that might, just might, prevent Hewitt from having a lengthy career once he starts to lose a little speed in his advancing years, but overall he too has more obvious weapons than the Changster.

Still, a Grand Slam at 17 and 33 other titles spanning twelve years is nothing to sniff about, but as 1996, his most successful year, showed, his game was just too lightweight against the very best: in both Slam finals he reached, he was comprehensively outmuscled by two big serving net-rushers in Becker and Sampras.
 

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I'm surprised it took him so long to retire. I'm in to tennis for like 3 years now, so I don't know how well Chang was back then. But in the last years he didn't really have to good results so that's why I'm surprised that he'll retire this year.
 

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Ilhame said:
I'm surprised it took him so long to retire.
Chang enjoys playing tennis. That's one of the reason he stays that long. My another guess is with Paradon rising up in tennis ladder, he feels he has a successor now in carrying his torch. He is the inspiration for many, many Asian tennis players since his 1989 FO crown.
 
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