Michael Chang

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Michael Chang is the youngest male ever to win a Grand Slam tennis championship.

Perhaps the greatest male prodigy in American tennis history, Chang first came to the tennis world’s attention as a junior player.  He won his first national title — the USTA Junior Hard Court singles — at 12.  The following year, he won the Fiesta Bowl 16s.  At 15, he claimed the USTA Boys 18s Hardcourts and Boys 18 Nationals while becoming the youngest player to win a main draw match at the U.S. Open.  At 16 ½, he won his first top-level singles title in San Francisco then stunned the tennis world with an improbable victory at the 1989 French Open to become, at 17, the youngest male player ever to win a major title.

One of the fastest players on the court, Chang featured a strong return game and was excellent on all surfaces.  Only 5’9” and 160 pounds, he lacked the power of some of his contemporaries, so he employed a dogged defensive style and relied on his quickness.  In 16 years as a professional, Chang won 34 top-level singles titles and was a three-time runner-up in majors.  He reached a career-best World No. 2 ranking in 1996 and amassed an overall singles record of 662-312 [68 percent].  Chang won at least one ATP title in each of 11 straight years, a streak that ended in 1999.  He was ranked in the top ten in the world for six straight years from 1992 to 1997, a feat matched only by Pete Sampras.  Chang won ATP titles in three different decades and his three Indian Wells Masters titles was an ATP record that stood for 15 years, before being surpassed by Roger Federer in 2012.

Born February 22, 1972, in Hoboken, New Jersey — across the Hudson River from New York City and childhood home of Frank Sinatra – Michael Te-Pei Chang is the younger of two boys born to Taiwanese refugee parents.  The family moved to St. Paul, Minnesota, where Michael learned tennis, then moved to Orange County, California, to increase the tennis opportunities for him and his older brother Carl.  Before her sons were teenagers, Betty Chang quit her job as a chemist to escort them to tournaments.  Michael attended San Dieguito High School in Encinitas, alma mater of skater Tony Hawk, Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder, and Tom Dempsey, who booted a 63-yard field goal in 1970 that stood as an NFL record for 43 years.  After rising to become the 163rd-ranked player in the world as a 15-year-old amateur, Chang passed his GED and dropped out of tenth grade at San Dieguito to turn pro.

Coached by Jose Higueras, who also worked with Jim Courier and later, Sampras and Federer, Michael Chang burst onto the scene in September 1988 by beating Johan Kriek in straight sets in San Francisco to capture his first pro title.  At the French Open eight months later, he beat Sampras in straight sets in the second round, then beat World No. 1 Ivan Lendl.  In one of the most thrilling matches ever played at Roland Garros, Chang lost the first two sets to the seemingly invincible Czech, then fought off cramps to take the next three sets and the match.  In the final, Chang beat defending Wimbledon champion Stefan Edberg to capture his second professional win and only major title of his career.  Just three months past his 17th birthday, Chang became the youngest Grand Slam winner in history and finished the year ranked fifth in the world, becoming the youngest male in history to crack the top five.

Chang became the first American man to win the French Open since 1955, and the first American man to win a Grand Slam event since 1984.  The teenager ended both droughts while ushering in a new era of American stars, including Sampras, Courier and Andre Agassi.  The holder of numerous “youngest ever” records, Chang admired John McEnroe for his talent, Jimmy Connors for his competitiveness, and Bjorn Borg for his cool demeanor.

Chang was a key member of the U.S. team that won the Davis Cup in 1990.  In 1991, he reached the quarterfinals or better in 13 tournaments.  Chang began working under the tutelage of his older brother Carl in 1993.  Over the next five years, he played in 38 ATP singles finals, winning 23.  In 16 years as a pro, Chang played in 58 singles finals, winning 34 titles and finishing runner-up 24 times.  Carl Chang coached his brother to 26 of those crowns.

The right-handed Chang competed in two Olympic Games.  In 1992, he lost in the second round in Barcelona.  Eight years later in Sydney, Chang was eliminated in the first round.  The stocky Chinese-American chose to skip the 1996 Games despite the fact that the tournament was held in Atlanta and that he would have been the number-one seed [the single’s gold medal went to Agassi].

Mr. Chang won his final top-level singles tournament in 2000 at Los Angeles.  He retired in 2003 having earned over $ 19 million in prize money during his career.  In 2014, Chang returned to coach Kei Nishikori, Asia’s finest male player in a generation.  Under Chang’s guidance, Nishikori has won 11 singles titles and was runner-up at the 2014 U.S. Open.  A devout Christian, Chang married former professional tennis player Amber Liu in 2008, the same year he was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.  The couple has two daughters and make their home in Orange County, California.

On this date in 1985, Michael Chang became the youngest male to win a main draw match at the U.S. Open when he defeated Paul McNamee is four sets in the first round.