American Hopes End With Chang’s Ouster


If Pete Sampras thinks Paris haunts him, he should talk to Michael Chang.

Sampras has won every Grand Slam tournament but the French Open. Chang has won only the French Open, among Grand Slams, and that title, won when he was 17, stares out from the beginning of his career record like a reproach.

For Chang, the constant striving is always measured against that achievement. He wonders, is it better to have never realized your potential, than to have spun out at the start of your career?

Chang’s loss Monday to Sergi Bruguera in the fourth round carried with it more import than the second-seeded player exiting the tournament. It was another disappointment for Chang, who, more than anyone else on the men’s tour, has driven himself to self-improvement.


The two former champions replayed their 1995 semifinal match here, changing only the outcome. Bruguera, who won titles here in 1993 and 1994, beat Chang, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4.

The normally low-key combatants were uncharacteristically edgy, vigorously questioning calls. During one moment of pique, Bruguera slammed his racket into the net.

Family members joined in too, Chang’s brother, Carl, and Bruguera’s father, Luis, exchanging harsh words in the courtside players’ box.

In his career, Chang has continuously worked at improving. To make up for his slight stature, he turned himself into one of the quickest players. To compensate for a lack of firepower, Chang developed a brilliant tactical game. When the velocity of his serve began to lag behind his peers, he worked with his equipment company, designing a longer racket.

At 25, he has risen to No. 2 in the world, despite critics who say he’s too short, too nice, too one-dimensional. The doubters have always driven him, as have his agonizingly close calls with stardom.

Chang defeated Andre Agassi to reach the final of the U.S. Open last year, then was smacked by Sampras in the final.


He said at the time, “It’s disappointing, but I think in my life I have always seemed to be challenged to persevere and I don’t think this is any exception.

“People say, ‘Well, you can’t come close to winning a major,’ or ‘You can’t get to this particular ranking,’ and you go out there and you take things little by little and you conquer things little by little. The way I look at it is, things today didn’t go my way but [I’m] just going to keep my head up and continue to work hard. I still feel my best tennis is ahead of me.”

If Chang had felt up to it, he might have said something similar Monday. He’d never been presented with a more opportune moment to recapture his title. Only two seeded players remain in the tournament and the favorites had long left.

Chang’s match-long error was lack of judgment.

“Sometimes you get into this mentality that because you are on clay, you need to always be patient,” he said. “Unfortunately, today was not a good example of that. Today I should have been less patient, taken more of my chances.”

Chang’s 65 unforced errors, however, were not products of patience.


With Chang out of the tournament, there are no Americans in the final eight, the first time since 1969 that has been the case.

The cold and rainy day also produced another upset, Hicham Arazi of Morocco defeating seventh-seeded Marcelo Rios of Chile, 6-2, 6-1, 5-7, 7-6 (7-4), in a match that was delayed by rain. Galo Blanco of Spain defeated Petr Korda of the Czech Republic, 1-6, 6-1, 7-5, 6-4. Patrick Rafter of Australia defeated countryman Mark Woodforde, 6-2, 5-7, 6-1, 6-2, in a match also completed under a rain delay. And in one that was suspended because of darkness Sunday night and concluded Monday, Gustavo Kuerten of Brazil defeated Andrei Medvedev of the Ukraine, 5-7, 6-1, 6-2, 1-6, 7-5.



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* Amanda Coetzer (11) vs. Steffi Graf (2)

* Monica Seles (3) vs. Mary Joe Fernandez (12)

* Martina Hingis (1) vs. Arantxa Sanchez Vicario (6)