| Michael Chang bids farewell from the game after his first-round loss on Tuesday. (AFP)
New York: Michael Chang’s farewell tour came to a predictable and bittersweet end on Tuesday when he bid goodbye with a gritty first round loss at the US Open.
Just 14 hours after Pete Sampras walked off into retirement on the same Arthur Ashe court, a combative Chang was dragged fighting off the tennis stage with a 3-6, 5-7, 7-5, 4-6 defeat by Chilean Fernando Gonzalez.
Like Sampras, Chang said he had laboured over his decision to retire.
But unlike the 14-time Grand Slam winner, Chang refused to read the writing on the wall. While Sampras exited in a blaze of glory following his victory at last year’s Open, Chang stumbled to the finish line — winning just two matches in 10 events during his farewell campaign.
“It was emotional for me,” said Chang. “I had fun today, it was a goal of mine to have fun today and this year. If you walk away from the tour thinking you should have done this, or done that and have regrets... then something’s not right.
The high point in a career that produced 34 singles titles came early, when the thoughtful American shocked the tennis world in 1989 by becoming the youngest men’s Grand Slam champion at the French Open. After triumphing at Roland Garros at the age of 17 years, three months, Chang never quite relived that glory over the next 14 years.
He reached three more Grand Slam finals, including the Australian and US Opens, but never tasted victory again on the big stage. Three other Grand Slam finals after the French, I had a great opportunity here (in 1996),” said Chang. “I went out and I tried, that’s all you can ask of yourself.
“Sometimes people ask about the timing of French Open win and I wouldn’t change a thing. Unfortunately for me, that second Grand Slam never quite came.”