1989 : Michael Chang, beyond tennis

Jun 2, 2023, 10:41:49 AM

When Michael Chang won for Tiananmen protestors

For the new generation of fans, this is just another vintage clip you can watch on YouTube. But for those who were there and will never forget this moment, these are the endless, gripping, last seconds of an extremely intense match (4-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3). Yes, this funny underhand serve played on 5 June 1989 by 17-year-old Michael Chang against World No. 1 Ivan Lendl in the French Open round of 16 is a piece of tennis and sports history. Six days later, Chang would become the youngest Grand Slam winner ever. He still is. Now 51, the American player says it was all but due to chance. “Faith helped me.” It was not just that, though. “But there was more. The Tiananmen Square protests [an anti-corruption movement fighting for political and democratic reforms] were going on in China. They were part of my daily life. When I wasn’t playing or practicing, I was watching TV with my family. My victory gave a faint smile to Chinese people everywhere in the world that week. That was my motivation. I won for the protesters in Tiananmen!”

A year later, in 1990, Chang went to China, his parent’s birth country. “It was a very strict trip. I couldn’t get in touch with anyone, and I could not sign any autographs. During a press conference, journalists asked me why I didn’t come earlier. I answered in English that it had been cancelled due to the Tiananmen events. The Chinese translator told them that I couldn’t come, but for other reasons. I happen to speak a bit of Chinese. After that, I told him to translate everything I said verbatim for the rest of my stay. He said: ‘No problem, but be very, very careful about what you say.’ He was not allowed to talk about it. That was the way it worked back then.” Chang now helps people through the foundation he started in 1999. He even created the Michael Chang Tennis Classic 10 years ago. This charity tournament features 1,000 amateur players every year in July in the USA.