PARIS — Michael Chang of Placentia outlasted Andrei Chesnokov 6-1, 5-7, 7-6 (7-4), 7-5 in a four-hour baseline battle today to reach the final of the men's singles at the French Open.
The 17-year-old Chang, who saved three set points in the third set, became the youngest-ever men's finalist in Paris and is one step from becoming the first American to win the French Open men's singles title in 34 years.
In Sunday's final, Chang will meet Sweden's Stefan Edberg, the reigning Wimbledon champion and No. 5 seed.
Edberg outlasted Boris Becker 6-3, 6-4, 5-7, 3-6, 6-2 in today's second semifinal, which lasted only 10 minutes less than Chang's match. Edberg also will be making his first appearance in the final at Roland Garros.
"Making tennis history makes me feel good inside," Chang said after the 4-hour, 5-minute marathon. "It's definitely a dream. It's something special I'll always have with me. I hope it'll be an encouragement to other young players."
16th American in Final
Chang, who ousted top seed and heavy favorite Ivan Lendl in the fourth round, became the 16th American in the history of the tournament to reach the men's final.
He will be the first American finalist since John McEnroe five years ago and the sixth since Tony Trabert won the title in 1955, the last American to do so.
"I went in relaxed because I had gone further than expected," said Chang, the 15th seed. "I was ready to wait for each point. It was a tough match. Each point was really close. The exchanges were very long.
"It's the type of match you're really happy to pull out."
Chang, whose previous best performance in a Grand Slam tournament was the fourth round at last year's U.S. Open, started the match in complete command and ripped through the opening set in 28 minutes.
Chesnokov, the unseeded Soviet who upset defending champion Mats Wilander in the quarterfinals, won only 12 points in the set as he struggled to find his timing and rhythm, especially on the backhand.
Long, Hard Rallies
The pattern continued at the start of the second set as Chesnokov dropped his serve twice and was down 0-3.
But the 23-year-old from Moscow, a frequent slow-starter, then broke Chang for the first time and, with the crowd behind him, rallied to take the set and tie the match.
By then, the rallies were long and hard, with most games going to deuce and some lasting more than 10 minutes.
Chesnokov broke Chang for 4-2 but immediately dropped his own serve as the grueling baseline encounter approached the three-hour mark with little drama or sparkle but increasing intensity.
Then came the moment Chesnokov felt he may have lost the match.
With Chang serving to save the set at 4-5, the Soviet had three set points in a game of seven deuces. He put a backhand wide on the first, a forehand inches wide on the second and was beaten by a Chang overhead on the third.
Chang held serve and, two games later, took the tiebreaker 7-4 with a smash.
Chang then began to take more risks, rushing the net to put away volleys and forcing Chesnokov out of his back court stride and into a stream of errors.
"I didn't play badly," said Chesnokov, the first Soviet player in 17 years to reach the men's semifinals. "But I'm not happy because I didn't win the big points. It was a question of pressure."