Michael Chang kicks off his farewell tour
Published: Saturday, February 1, 2003 at 6:23 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, February 1, 2003 at 12:00 a.m.
Michael Chang's childhood rivals Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras still are winning Grand Slam tournaments late in their careers.
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.
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