Chang Named to Play on U.S. Davis Cup Team
The United States Tennis Assn., showing that its strategy is to go back to the future, Thursday named 16-year-old Michael Chang of Placentia to the U.S. Davis Cup team that will play Paraguay next month.
The announcement was made by team captain Tom Gorman, who said that he picked Chang after “many conversations” with David Markin, the USTA’s chairman of the Davis Cup Committee.
“We looked down the road on this one,” Gorman said. “We felt that, playing an opponent like Paraguay, this would give us a chance to look at a great young player without having undue pressure on him to win.”
The rest of the team Gorman picked should easily take the pressure off young Chang, who was ranked 30th in the world last year.
Chang and Andre Agassi, ranked third, will play singles, and Ken Flach and Robert Seguso, ranked second in doubles, will compete in their specialty. Flach and Seguso have never lost a Davis Cup match, nor has Agassi.
Even though Paraguay upset the United States in Davis Cup competition in a controversial match in Paraguay in March, 1987, it does not figure to do anywhere near that well on the hard courts at Sanibel Island, Fla., Feb. 3-5.
“I’ve seen enough Davis Cup tennis to know that crazy things can happen, but we felt that we have the horses for this one, and that put us in a near-perfect situation to use a young player like Chang,” Gorman said.
Gorman said that once veteran John McEnroe chose not to compete in this first-round match, his decision on whom to team with Agassi in singles became a difficult one. “It was a matter of deciding which direction we wanted to go with the U.S. tennis program,” he said, adding that the three others in the running for the spot given to Chang were veterans Tim Mayotte, Brad Gilbert and Aaron Krickstein.
“That doesn’t mean that they won’t be involved in later rounds,” Gorman said.
If the United States beats Paraguay, it will play the winner of February’s France-Israel match April 7-9. If the opponent is France, the match will be at an as-yet undetermined site in the United States. If the opponent is Israel, the match will be in Israel.
Gorman, who lives in the Palm Springs area, said he contacted Chang in Florida Wednesday night and told him of his selection.
“He’s so low-keyed that it was hard to gauge his reaction,” Gorman said. “But I’m pretty sure I heard a smile over the phone line.”
Chang said Thursday from Boca Raton, Fla., where he is practicing for the ’89 season: “I feel excited. It is just an honor to represent your country in the Davis Cup.”
He and his family had planned to return to California next Friday.
“But we were prepared, we had plans ready, just in case it happened and I got picked,” Chang said. “I wasn’t really expecting anything, but we did some things, just in case.”
Chang will not play in the Australian Open, first of tennis’ four Grand Slam events, but will remain in Florida, practicing until the Davis Cup event.
“That will be my first competition of the year,” he said.
It will also be 3 weeks before his 17th birthday.
Gorman said that his choice of Flach and Seguso was not as tough as that of Chang, even though Flach and Seguso are being challenged as the best doubles team in the world by the Los Angeles team of Rick Leach and Jim Pugh. Leach is a former USC All-American who lives in Laguna Beach, Pugh a former UCLA All-American who lives in Palos Verdes.
“I spoke to both Ricky and Jim recently, and I explained that Flach and Seguso have been there for a while and have earned their shot,” Gorman said. “I also told them that Flach and Seguso know that somebody is hot on their heels and that if (Leach and Pugh) have another year this year like they had the second half of last year, it will be hard to keep them off the Davis Cup team.”