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MEN'S TENNIS / LOS ANGELES TOURNAMENT : Chang Hopes to Keep Ticking After a Victory Over Tarango

August 05, 1993|THOMAS BONK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Has it already been four years since Michael Chang won a Grand Slam event? It's 1989, it's the French Open, it's 17-year-old Chang turning the Eiffel Tower upside down, it's the game's most unexpected event until John McEnroe started coaching Boris Becker.

Actually, there's no need to turn back the clocks, mainly because Chang has already done it for you. Chang has decided that there is no time like the present, so he is producing a watch with his picture on it.

Coming soon to a store near you, it's the Michael Chang watch, and we all know what kind of watch that is.

"Wind it up and it runs and runs and runs," Chang said.

Of course, it does. You just can't wind it up and it's 1989 all over again. Four years removed from his only Grand Slam victory, Chang at 21 is on a quest to prove that it wasn't a fluke, that he can win another major tournament and that he belongs with the big guys.

Maybe he even has plenty of time to do it.

Chang worked over Jeff Tarango, 6-1, 6-0, in 65 minutes Wednesday at UCLA and arrived in the quarterfinals of the Volvo/Los Angeles tournament like, well, clockwork.

Michael Stich, who had 11 aces in his first-round victory, knocked four more in a 6-2, 6-3 decision against Kelly Jones and meets Chuck Adams next.

Stich, the 1991 Wimbledon champion and ranked No. 6, handicapped the race for No. 1 between Jim Courier and 1993 Wimbledon champion and No. 1-ranked Pete Sampras.

"If you look at Jim Courier and see what he has done in the Grand Slams the last three years, it's pretty incredible and you might say 'OK, he should be No. 1,' . . . so it is some kind of strange. But Pete has five tournament victories this year and it is not enough to play just the Grand Slams well, you have to play well the whole year."

Next for Chang is Aaron Krickstein, who defeated wild card David Nainkin, to set up a match that may be decided at the baseline and timed by a calendar.

Critics say Chang's Grand Slam successes can be timed the same way. Since he won the French Open in 1989, Chang's best performance in a major was in last year's U.S. Open when he reached the semifinals and lost to Stefan Edberg.

Chang hasn't advanced past the quarterfinals in any other Grand Slam tournament. This year, he lost in the second round of the Australian Open, the second round of the French Open and the third round at Wimbledon.

Add it all up. Does it mean the French Open was a fluke?

"Whatever it is, it was a great win," Joe Chang said. "I am hoping he will win again."

His son hopes for the same thing, but he isn't exactly lying awake at night worrying about it. Instead, there are other things to do during daylight hours, like lifting weights and getting stronger.

Joe Chang said the idea is for Michael to catch up to Jim Courier and Pete Sampras, who work with fitness trainer Pat Etcheberry in Florida.

"Physically, Agassi, Courier and Sampras are just much stronger than Michael," Joe Chang said. "(Michael) needs to be stronger (and develop an) upper body like a man, not like a boy any more. Now, he has to put special effort into it."

Michael Chang said it's just as important for him to peak at the right time by adjusting his schedule in preparation for Grand Slam appearances.

Ranked No. 9, Chang reached as high as No. 4 in 1992 even though he said that Grand Slam titles, not rankings, are the true measure of success.

"Hopefully for me, my time is coming soon," he said. "Maybe I can catch up a little bit. . . . I'm younger than Pete and Jim, so I give myself maybe a little bit longer than them to do well in the Grand Slams.

"If I'm able to put everything together, there will be more opportunities for me."

He seemed to be saying that time was on his side.

Tennis Notes

Mauricio Hadad, 21, of Cali, Colombia, ranked No. 161, plays No. 1-ranked Pete Sampras tonight. Haddad said: "It will be a good opportunity to get people to watch me." He said his tennis role models are Jim Courier and Ivan Lendl. . . . Michael Chang is 0-4 against Aaron Krickstein, who said Chang's 1989 French Open victory certainly was no fluke. "But it's going to be tougher for him to win another one now," Krickstein said. "There's so much more power in the game, big serves, and that's a weakness he's never going to change."

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