Chang takes five, then wins Advances to men's semis in fashionably long match

September 11, 1992|By Bill Glauber PTC | Bill Glauber PTC,Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- Welcome to the U.S. slow-motion Open.

Long lines. Longer matches. Lots of standing around and waiting for millionaire tennis players to towel off, pace, bounce the ball and serve.

But every once in awhile they serve up a terrific match filled with passion and pathos.

Last night, No. 4 seed Michael Chang needed five sets and 4 hours and 17 minutes to finish off a 20-year-old freckle-faced South African who looks like Doogie Howser and hits backhands like the Terminator.

Chang outlasted Wayne Ferreira, 7-5, 2-6, 6-3, 6-7 (4-7), 6-1 to advance to tomorrow's semifinals.

will meet the winner of the Stefan Edberg-Ivan Lendl match, which was suspended by rain early this morning and will resume this afternoon with the players on serve in the fifth set. Edberg was leading 6-3, 6-3, 3-6, 5-7, 2-1, but the momentum clearly had shifted to Lendl, who fought off four match points in the fourth set.

Of course, waiting in the wings are two other young Americans already in the men's final four. After bashing Andre Agassi in four sets Wednesday night, No. 1 Jim Courier will meet No. 3 Pete Sampras in the semifinals.

But the talk of this year's Open hasn't been all tennis. Mostly, it's about time. This is the land of the $7 flute of champagne and the five-hour tennis match.

And nobody likes to play longer than Chang, who routinely begins warming up at the 4-hour mark. If he doesn't go five sets, it's like he was robbed of court time.

Chang the 1989 French Open champion who added power to his patient baseline game found his match in Ferreira, a relative unknown in America, but a semifinalist at this year's Australian Open. Ferreira is often his own worst enemy, compiling 104 unforced errors against Chang. But he is also a serve-and-volley player of tremendous potential, needing only patience to harness his talents.

Ferreira also showed some guts, pulling his left quadriceps muscle in the fourth set, yet remaining in the match, hobbling between points, then banging out ground stroke after ground stroke.

"I've played through a lot of pain worse than that," Ferreira said. "I got it taped up and it took the pressure off."

Chang, however, showed no mercy. Despite losing the fourth-set tiebreaker, he roared back in the fifth set, getting up a break and applying the pressure right to the end.

"It's difficult to teach playing that way," Chang said. "Against an injured player, it's easy to say, 'Just focus. just stick with the game plan.' It's tough to get it out of your head."

For nearly two weeks Chang has been the most unflappable of seeded players. He has driven stealth-like through the draw, ignoring every slight thrown at him. Fans are ignoring him. The press, too. Even the constant schedule changes haven't bothered Chang, now 20, and considered among the more thoughtful players on the pro tour.

A band of rain showers and the wishful thinking of U.S. Tennis Association organizers played havoc with Chang's court-time yesterday. Scheduled to play on the stadium court, he was shoved over to the Grandstand when a men's doubles match stretched nearly six hours. And no wonder.

They were staging a rematch of the Wimbledon men's doubles '' final that dragged across two days. But this time, Jim Grabb and Richey Reneberg got their revenge, beating Wimbledon champs John McEnroe and Michael Stich, 3-6, 7-6, 7-6 (7-2), 4-6, 6-2.

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