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Chang's Attitude Serves Him Well

Tennis: New aggressive approach helps him defeat Pescosolido and advance to semifinal against Edberg.

August 03, 1996|WENDY WITHERSPOON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

There's something suspicious about the Michael Chang who showed up for the quarterfinals of the Infiniti Open on Friday.

After defeating Stefano Pescosolido, 6-2, 6-2, Chang sauntered into a post-match news conference at the Los Angeles Tennis Center wearing a T-shirt with the message "No Mercy"--a slogan seemingly at odds with his professed faith in Christianity.

Even fishier, Pescosolido appeared moments later and started praising Chang's serve.

"He's serving pretty well now. Not like [Pete] Sampras or [Goran] Ivanisevic, but it's pretty fast," Pescosolido said.

Chang's serve has been called many things, but never "fast."

Truth is, Chang is sporting a new, aggressive attitude and is playing his best tennis in years. He is ranked a career-high No. 3 and is top-seeded heading into today's semifinals, in which he will meet a familiar foe in Stefan Edberg at 1 p.m.

Edberg, seeded sixth, defeated Scott Draper, 6-3, 6-4, to advance to the semifinals of this tournament for the sixth time.

If nothing else, Chang vs. Edberg has great sentimental value. Their most memorable meeting remains Chang's most famous--the 1989 French Open final, which Chang won at the age of 17. In 1992, at the semifinals of the U.S. Open, Edberg beat Chang in a 5-hour 26-minute match that remains the longest in Grand Slam tournament history. The semifinal also will be a rematch of the 1990 final at Los Angeles, which Edberg won.

Edberg is 12-8 against Chang, but Chang has won four of their last five matches. The only one Chang lost was in the third round of the French Open in June.

Edberg, who is making his farewell tour this year, has been on a roll recently. This is his third semifinal appearance in his last five tournaments, including the Queen's tournament at London in June, when he lost in the final to Boris Becker.

Edberg, ranked No. 27, has breezed through his first three matches, winning a tournament-leading 93% of his service games and not dropping a set.

Against No. 93 Draper, who is eight years younger, Edberg faltered slightly at the end. Draper broke him to stay in the match, 5-4, but Edberg broke back in the next game, winning it after Draper hit a backhand into the net.

In another quarterfinal, second-seeded Richard Krajicek struggled past eighth-seeded Jonas Bjorkman, 3-6, 7-5, 6-3, to advance to this tournament's semifinals for the fourth time.

Krajicek, who won at Wimbledon last month and also won this tournament in 1992 and 1993, has had difficulty all week. He has played three sets in all three matches he has played.

Krajicek will play Sandon Stolle in the other semifinal at 7:30 p.m.

In the other quarterfinal, Sandon Stolle defeated former Stanford star Alex O'Brien, 6-4, 6-3.

Stolle did not want to repeat Thursday's second-round blunder, when he squandered four match points against fifth-seeded Jan Siemerink in the second set before finally winning it in the third. Stolle broke O'Brien to take a 3-1 lead in the second set then held serve to win.

"I said, 'This is a chance to redeem yourself,' " Stolle said.

Usually, Stolle and O'Brien are on the same side of the net. They advanced to the final of the U.S. Open last year in doubles.

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