Everybody else chasing Chang
Two titles, four straight finals, most ATP wins of any active player

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Michael Chang and Cincinnati were always a pretty good fit.

        Chang is a polite, thoughtful tennis player who appreciates his privacy and yearns to be able to focus on his matches.

        This city, and the ATP Championship, always have allowed him to do just that.

Michael Chang has more victories in the ATP Championship than any other active player: 35.
(File photo)
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        "I enjoy the kind of tournament where the people tend to be more on the warm side, tend to be a little bit more personable," Chang said. "I don't feel quite as close to certain events if they're in big-city locations. I don't know whether that has to do with my personality.

        "When I get to places like Cincinnati, I'm able to go about my business and at the same time have interaction with people. It's a lot of fun. Everyone's very courteous, very hospitable. That's always been my experience."

        Chang, 27, became a crowd favorite here during a four-year period when he won the ATP title twice (1993, '94, beating Stefan Edberg both times) and finished second twice (1995, '96, losing to Andre Agassi both times).

        Fans at the ATP Tennis Center, like most places, always showed their appreciation for the all-out style that Chang has displayed throughout his career.

Stefan Edberg beat Brad Gilbert in the 1990 final in 52 minutes (6-1, 6-1), the second-fastest final on ATP Tour that year. On the court afterward, Gilbert apologized to the fans for the match being so quick.
        "You get unbelievable crowds just to come out and watch us practice," Chang said. "For me, it's an unbelievable atmosphere to play in. You always want to go back to place you enjoy. When you go to a place you enjoy, your attitude is always better. I think attitude really does a lot for a person."

        Chang has the highest winning percentage and most victories of any active player at the ATP Championship and shares the record for most consecutive finals appearances with Mats Wilander (1983-86) and Edberg (1987-90).

        The only place Chang has appeared in more championship matches: Hong Kong (5).

        The August heat has taken its toll on Chang. Because he plays such an aggressive, constant-motion style, he has had to battle the weather. Last year, he suffered from dehydration and after one match had to walk around the court for an hour.

        "I think it takes its toll on everybody, but maybe a little moreso on me because I'm having to run a little bit more than some of the other guys," Chang said. "Then again, if I'm able to get through the first few days of the tournament, that helps me to get a little more accustomed to it and be in a little bit better shape as the tournament goes on. It's tough to say.

        "I know each year I go back I've had to grind through some very tough matches."

        Chang finished last year ranked No. 29 and has dropped to 64. He had finished in the top 10 six straight years before that. He has won at least one singles title each of the past 11 years -- the longest active streak on the ATP Tour -- but has yet to win a tournament in '99.

        He hopes returning to one of his favorite events will help him turn around his season.




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