Chang expects usual style to resurface in D.C. event No attacker, he finds hard courts less difficult

July 11, 1996|By Phil Jackman | Phil Jackman,SUN STAFF

Michael Chang, one of the favorites in the Legg Mason Tennis Classic that begins Monday at the FitzGerald Tennis Center in Washington, learned something about his game when he was dumped in the first round at Wimbledon a couple of weeks ago.

"Next time, I won't try to be [a serve-and-volley] attacker," he said. "That's not my game."

Chang's game, a style that helped him win the French Open on slow clay at the age of 17 and become a Top 10 player in the years since, involves ground strokes, patience, brains and an ability to run down almost any ball in sight.

Wimbledon, of course, is on grass or, during the second week, dirt. Before the grass, the tour plays on clay at the French and Italian opens and a few other surfaces both indoors and out to keep the players on their toes.

"I think there is a tendency for many players to sort of defeat themselves when it comes to changing surfaces," said Chang, 24. "We all have our favorites, but that doesn't mean you should allow a negative frame of mind to develop toward others.

"No matter what, it's still the same basic game of tennis. On clay, you have more time to set up but you slide. Footing on grass can be treacherous and the ball doesn't come up. Hard courts give you the truest bounce but they can get awfully fast sometimes."

Chang said the latter is where he's most comfortable, not only because he learned the game on the cement and asphalt in California, but because few of his foes can match his speed, quickness and agility getting to the ball.

The Legg Mason, which will have daily sessions at 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, is on asphalt but the courts are fairly slow. That is just fine with Chang, who classifies himself as "a guy who plays from the back and waits to attack.

"It's not easy making a quick transition to a little bit different game when we return from Europe," he said. "But things get better and better each time you [practice or play], so a week is all it should take."

Chang, ranked No. 6 in the world, hasn't made the Washington stop since 1990, "when I lost to [eventual champion] Andre Agassi in the semis."

Agassi, a winner here last year, too, didn't have it on his schedule to defend. But he's in a slump and is going to play in the Olympics, so he didn't want to head for Atlanta having only practiced for nearly four weeks. He called Tuesday night and was granted a wild card.

"Good," said Chang. "I'd like to face him, Jim Courier and Carlos Costa [the man who beat him at Wimbledon] if I can."

Pub Date: 7/11/96

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