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"I knew that I could lose my place of n.1, it's a shame because this could have been a great final" - Stefan Edberg after Boris Becker's retirement in the 1990 Bercy final. Read the article

Chang's year

from Tennis Magazine (issue of June 2004)
translated into English by Mauro Cappiello

Michael Chang and Ivan Lendl shake hands after their historic match in the fourth round of the 1989 Roland Garros
In the spring of 1989, Michael Chang and Arantxa Sanchez surprise the world, winning the French Open against the two big favourites.

Thrills. Repeated twists. And two new winners: Arantxa Sanchez and Michael Chang. This 1989 edition of the Roland Garros upsets all the predictions and the history of the game. First, Michael Chang (1m73, 61kg), who becomes, at 17 and 3 months, the youngest winner in the history of the tournament and who also appropriates of the record previously held by Boris Becker, the youngest winner of a Grand Slam tournament. He is also the first Asian player to triumph in the queen of categories.

Michael Chang lifts the 1989 French Open trophy
Chang’s path, seeded 15, starts boiling the tournament. After easy victories over Eduardo Massa, Pete Sampras (6-1, 6-1, 6-1!) and Francisco Roig in the third round, then Chang hits a blow by eliminating in the fourth round the world number one, the Czechoslovak Ivan Lendl. Two sets down, the American destabilizes Lendl with some strange inspirations like a “spoon service” (he will win the point!) and his placing himself close to the service line when returning his opponent’s serve.

After 4:37 hours of heroic struggle, Chang, crippled by cramping in the fifth set and close to withdrawal, overcomes that Lendl who was thought  "untouchable".  After this victory, Chang beats in four sets Ronald Agenor and Andrei Chesnokov (who defeated defending champion Mats Wilander in the quarter-finals) to reach the final and face Swede Stefan Edberg (n.3).

In a very tough half of the draw with Becker (N.2), Hlasek (n.6), Perez-Roldan (n.16) and Mancini (n.11 and winner of Monte-Carlo), Edberg wins the shock match of the tournament in the semifinal against his biggest rival Becker after 5 fierce sets. Never before had Edberg reached the final of the French.

But facing the wall Chang and after leading two sets to one, Edberg has to bow in five sets, not before missing 10 break points spread over three different games in the fourth set, a heartbreaking for the entire stadium (final score: 6-1, 3-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2). This defeat is Edberg’s first in a Grand Slam final (after three titles in as many finals) and allows at the same time Chang to become the sixth American to win on Paris clay, 34 years after the last US victory by Tony Trabert in 1955.

On the women’s side, nothing could apparently prevent Germany's Steffi Graf, world number one and double defending champion, from winning her sixth consecutive Grand Slam tournament. She had not reckoned with Arantxa Sanchez, a 17 year and 5 month old Spanish girl. Seeded seven, Sanchez managed the impossible. First Spaniard to triumph at the Roland Garros, she is also the youngest player ever to enter her name in the history.

Stefan Edberg with Michael Chang during the 1989 French Open trophy ceremony

Sanchez, high courage and a fantastic footwork, also makes a remarkable route. In all her matches, she just drops two sets (one against Graf in the final). Without Gabriela Sabatini (n.2  and beaten by Mary Joe Fernandez at the fourth round) and with Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert missing the tournament, Graf had the door wide open. But in the final, the German had to surrender after almost three hours of play and at the end of a breath-taking match, beaten by the enthusiasm and regularity of the Spaniard (7-6, 3-6, 7-5).

Beyond its winners, Roland Garros allows the blossom of young talents such as Spanish Sergi Bruguera (18 years old, who reached the fourth round), Conchita Martinez (just 17 and quarter-finalist) and Yugoslavs Goran Ivanisevic (beaten at the fourth round at 17) and Monica Seles (semi-finalist at 15 and a half).

On the French side, Thierry Tulasne (who defeated Miloslav Mecir in the first round) who rises to the fourth round and Sophie Amiach (beaten in the third round) are the best representatives in a tournament where France (with 26 players in the first round, between men and women) did not shine little.

Chang's year


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