Chang sweeps Ferreira to capture D.C. crown New No.3 in world's determination, foe's serve spark 6-2, 6-4 win

July 22, 1996|By Phil Jackman | Phil Jackman,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON -- Heading into yesterday's Legg Mason Tennis Classic final, Michael Chang described his opponent Wayne Ferreira as "one of the more well-rounded guys on tour. He has a big serve, good backhand, good forehand and he can play serve and volley."

The assessment didn't seem to leave any area in which to attack or exploit Ferreira, so how come Chang breezed, 6-2, 6-4?

The defeated South African had the answer: "I served horribly."

As happens way more often than not when Chang plays, he went into his give-nothing-up mode: "I figure I had to cut down on my errors and play good, solid tennis if Wayne was on."

Just about every tennis player says it, especially after a victory, but few can carry out the plan like the 24-year-old Chinese-American native of Henderson, Nev., located just far enough from Las Vegas so the light and noise don't keep him awake nights.

Chang fell behind in the first set when Ferreira broke him in the third game. Then there wasn't a hint of a mistake in the next five games as Chang swept the board.

"I felt a little tired starting the second set," he said. "Maybe the two matches I played [Saturday] had an effect."

Not for long. Chang fell behind, 0-2, then squared it and Ferreira matched his pace through eight games.

With the end and a $90,000 first-place check in sight, Chang held, then went for the kill. Down 15-40, Ferreira avoided two match points with aggressive shots considering the situation, but Chang wasn't about to let the 25th tourney win of his career get away.

On a third match point, the 5-foot-9, 150-pound scrambler was all over the place. He made a terrific get on a Ferreira forehand, sent what looked to be a tying overhead smash back and Ferreira netted a smash.

"Since Indians Wells [a tournament win in mid-March], I haven't been great, let me put it that way," said Chang. "I did get to the final in Hong Kong [and lost]. I had problems but don't want to make excuses. I didn't have many matches in the last couple of months [also known in the trade as a bad Europe]."

Any suspected rust fell away quickly, even though it rained consistently during the first five days of the tournament, and Chang was nearly unstoppable from the third round on.

He leap-frogged Boris Becker to No. 4 on the ATP computer rankings with his first win in the tournament, then passed Andre Agassi to No. 3 between his quarterfinal match Saturday afternoon and his semifinal success that evening.

It's as high as Chang has ever gotten since becoming a perennial on the top 10 list after making it to No. 5 when he was just 17. He went cruising by the $12 million mark in prize money, too, with the win yesterday.

Some players might scoff at the ranking, figuring it's a here-today, gone-tomorrow type of deal. Not Chang. "To me, it's like getting to the next step, which means you're getting better," he explained.

"I feel I'm still improving and, if I can keep the proper attitude, mentality and work ethic, there's no need to worry about the ranking. If you worry about ranking and prize money and that, you're doing things backward."

Ferreira, his go-for-it style working until yesterday, also picked up a spot in the rankings to No. 12 as a result of being a beaten finalist.

Grant Connell and Scott Davis, seeded only eighth in the doubles event, defeated unseeded Doug Flach and Chris Woodruff for the championship, 7-6 (7-3), 3-6, 6-3.

Pub Date: 7/22/96

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