Carl Chang is not a bad tennis player. He’s just not the best in his family.
There’s no disgrace in that when your brother is running around the world winning the French Open and playing in the Davis Cup.
For Chang, brother of Michael Chang, being second best in tennis has never been a problem. It has allowed him to explore other avenues.
Chang has followed academic pursuits at the University of California. He expects to graduate this June with a business degree.
His specialty is political economy in an industrial society, which includes healthy doses of business administration, economics and political science.
“Michael has a career, he’s accepted that,” Carl Chang said. “He has to be more focused on tennis. The pressure is not that extreme on me. I’ve had options.”
Of course, tennis is still a large part of Carl Chang’s life. The No. 2 player in the family is the Bears’ No. 3 singles player.
Chang, 21, will be one of the top players in the Intercollegiate Tennis Coaches Assn.'s Holiday Classic beginning Thursday at the Sunny Hills Racquet Club. It’s his first tournament since October, when he reached the quarterfinals of the NCAA indoor championships.
During the past three years, Chang has juggled class loads--he is carrying 15 1/2 units this semester--and returned volleys and last week was typical for him.
On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, he had finals, and since he had been studying for three weeks, hadn’t had much time to work on the old serve.
On Thursday, Chang finally picked up a racket to cram for the ITCA, which will feature players from some of the nation’s top college programs.
“With finals, I never have time to practice,” Chang said. “It’s been about a month since I’ve really played. The ITCA tournament will be a nice way to get back into it.”
The tournament is on familiar ground for Chang, who works out at Sunny Hills when he’s at home. He lost there to David Harkness of BYU in the final of the Holiday Classic in 1988.
This year, the tournament will be a starting point. Chang will compete in two others during January to prepare for his final college season.
It will be his last season as an amateur, and when it’s over, Chang said he will decide whether he wants to continue in the sport.
“There are times when I think that tennis is what I want to do. Other times, I think I want to go into other areas of life,” he said. “I just don’t know what I want to do yet.”
Chang’s career, although not as distinguished as his brother’s, is one that would be envied by most players. He was a top junior player and had victories over Pete Sampras, who won the 1990 U.S. Open.
But Carl was overtaken by Michael, who turned pro at 15 and, in 1989, became the youngest player, at 17, to win the French Open.
Carl Chang’s career did not skyrocket, though.
“Carl’s priorities were different than Michael’s,” said Joe Chang, their father. “Carl wanted to get a college education.”
That was no problem, since all the top schools wanted him. He was one of the top tennis recruits in the nation as a senior at San Dieguito High School.
Although he is not as quick as his brother, Carl is bigger and has a stronger serve. He also has the same tenacity and competitiveness.
“Carl was an animal,” said Larry Mulvania, Chang’s high school coach. “He had a way of looking when he got competitive. It’s hard to describe, but the guy on the other side of the net would dissolve.”
California Coach Scott McCain liked that look, and Chang liked Berkeley.
As a sophomore, Chang stepped in when injuries left the team short-handed. He played No. 1 singles for part of the season and finished 20-9.
Last season, Chang split time between singles and doubles, where he teamed with Bent-Ove Pederson. They became one of the better teams in the nation and were the ones who clinched a Pac-10 victory over Stanford, which later won the NCAA championship.
“Carl has been a rock,” McCain said. “He has tremendous abilities and plays, no matter what. There have been times when I’ve had to force him to sit out of matches because of injuries. He’s the ultimate team player.”
But tennis was only half the reason Chang chose California. He has excelled in the classroom, too.
Last spring, he was accepted into the program on the political economy in an industrial society. Students need at least a 3.3 grade-point average to be considered.
“I didn’t want to go into business administration because it focuses too much on numbers,” Chang said. “And economics has too much theory. Right now, I’m getting a good taste of all the business fields.”
Where it will lead, Chang doesn’t know. He has thought about the import-export business and is also considering international investment.
Tennis? He may remain involved but not necessarily as a player. He is considering working off the court to help his brother.
It would be a formidable team. Michael would win the money, and Carl would invest it.
“It’s a possibility, and we’ve talked about it,” Carl said. “It would include all the stuff I love to do.”
The brothers made a trial run last summer, when Carl accompanied his brother on the tour. Besides being a companion, he helped organize Michael’s schedule and took care of details.
It was the first time they had traveled together without their parents.
“I got to see a lot of Europe, and we got to spend some time together,” Carl said. “Because of my school and his playing, we haven’t had much time with each other in the last couple of years.”
Carl also got the chance to test himself on the pro tour. Playing as an amateur, he teamed with his brother in doubles in two tournaments.
They were eliminated in the first round in Washington, D.C., and won one match in the international tournament in New Haven, Conn.
It was Carl’s first pro victory.
“Yeah, I’m now ranked in the top 400 (in doubles),” he said. “Boy, it was quite an experience. We were at center court, and the atmosphere was like nothing I ever felt. It was very intense.”
Whether it will be Chang’s last tour appearance is something not even he knows. For now, his main concerns are school--he will carry 17 units next semester--and helping the Bears win the national title.
“I got a whole semester before I have to make any decisions,” Chang said.