My Masters 1000: Michael Chang
Only three players have won all four ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournaments on North American soil. Michael Chang was the first, with titles at each stop – Canada (1990), Indian Wells (1992, ’96-97), Miami (1992) and Cincinnati (1993-94) – by the age of 21. The American was alone in the exclusive club before Andre Agassi and Roger Federer completed their sets, respectively in 2001 and 2005.
One of Chang’s most memorable runs came at the Rogers Cup in 1990, the year the Masters 1000 series was introduced. The 18 year old posted back-to-back wins over Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras before prevailing against another American, Jay Berger, in a third-set tie-break to clinch his first Masters 1000 crown.
Now 45, Chang shares his Masters 1000 memories and looks back on that week in Toronto.
What are your first memories of the Masters 1000s?
My first memories, we didn’t call it Masters 1000s back then. I think just being really excited to play. Just knowing that every match was tough from the get-go. The draws were always intriguing because you’ve got the best 56 players, or 64 players... People were excited to watch these great matches and I think especially for me and playing in tournaments like Indian Wells, where I’ve got a lot of family and friends coming to watch, it’s just exciting to come out and play my best tennis.
Do you think the BNP Paribas Open being your home tournament led to your success there?
Yeah, it was definitely a part of it. I grew up playing in southern California, so I’m very familiar with the conditions here and the courts… I just feel very comfortable. And obviously great crowd support too, that’s always part of it. Having the crowd behind you and supporting you definitely helps you out.
You first played in that tournament when you were 15. Do you remember that well?
I do; I was an amateur. I had just turned 15 and Charlie Pasarell, the Tournament Director, was kind enough to give me a wild card to play in the qualies. I won two matches, and lost in the third round. But it was a great experience. I came back the next year and played the main draw, so I have a lot of fond memories. And obviously having won a few times also brings back great memories.
You’re one of the few players who has won all four North American Masters 1000 tournaments. How were you able to accomplish this, particularly at such a young age?
For me, just playing in the United States and Canada not being very far. This is a surface that I grew up on, so it’s the surface I’m most familiar with. There aren’t a whole lot of tournaments that I didn’t do well at here in North America. The only exception from that list is the US Open in which I got to the final. It’s been great; it’s been a lot of fun to play these events. When you feel very comfortable and feel very much at home, the tennis comes pretty easily.
Is there a particular match that stands out in your memory, or title run?
I have a lot of great memories. The Canadian Open (Rogers Cup) in Toronto is one tournament that does stand out quite a bit, in 1990, beating Pete in the quarters and cramping against Andre there and beating him 7-5 in the third set, and then having a really tough match with Jay Berger and winning that one 7-6 in the third. That was a great tournament for me, a tournament that I still remember in many instances. It’s great to be a part of tough matches. Some you win, and some you lose. And you hope you win a few more than you lose, but the experiences have all been great.
Is there a certain player that you would consider the toughest competitor in Masters 1000 history?
It’s hard to say because the depth of men’s tennis was so great back then. There weren’t just four or five guys that could win some of these championships. You would have like 10-12 guys that, if their game was on during that week, they were very dangerous to play. I can’t say that it was one guy, there were just so many tough guys to play against.
What makes the Masters 1000s special?
There’s just so many reasons why the Masters 1000 series tournaments are so special. For one, it’s really like a miniature grand slam. It’s not as big of a draw, but you’ve got all the top players. The venues are tremendous, whether it’s on hard, whether it’s on clay, whether it’s indoor. The intensity of each of the matches is so tough. To be able to come out and to win one of these events is certainly not easy. All the guys realise that they need to be playing their best tennis in order to do well.
How much do you think has changed since you were a player?
Definitely events have changed. Some draws have changed a little bit. The venues have improved tremendously… When I won [the BNP Paribas Open] back in the day the venue was great, but nothing compared to what it is now. They’ve done such a tremendous job, always improving the events, making it better and better for not only the players, but the media, for the sponsors, for all the fans. It’s great for the sport of tennis.