Michael Chang still holds the record for being the youngest men’s singles Grand Slam champion when he defeated Stephan Edberg to clinch the French Open crown in 1989.
Chinese-American Chang was just 17 years, three months and seven days old when he lifted The Musketeers’ Cup at Roland Garros on June 11, three decades ago.
But more than the final, it was Chang’s victory over the then world No 1 Ivan Lendl in the pre-quarterfinals that is still talked about as the teenager fought back from two sets down.
Having managed to force his way back into the match, Chang started cramping at the start of the final stage and almost walked towards the chair umpire to concede the match.
He, however, found some resolve to fight while returning to the service line and then surprised everyone, including his opponent, by serving underhand in the eight’s game before wrapping the set a game later.
Twenty years after his triumph, Chang spoke about how the Tiananmen Square protests back in China were one of the inspiring factors in his dream run at the Roland Garros.
“What it was really about was an opportunity to bring a smile upon Chinese people’s faces around the world when there wasn’t a whole lot to smile about,” said Chang. “I honestly feel that that was God’s purpose for allowing me to be able to get through those matches.”
The final was another gruelling affair against Edberg, who took a 2-1 lead before the American fought back, dominating the proceedings with his groundstrokes.
Chang felt that there was some divine force backing him and explained a point in the final against Edberg when he felt that his shot was sailing wide but ended up clipping the line.
The winning run
Round 1: Beat Eduard Masso (Belgium) 6-7, 6-3, 6-0, 6-3
Round 2: Beat Pete Sampras (U.S.) 6-1, 6-1, 6-1
Round 3: Beat Francisco Roig (Spain) 6-0, 7-5, 6-3
Round 4: Beat Ivan Lendl (Czechoslovakia) 4-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3
Quarter-finals: Beat Ronald Agenor (Haiti) 6-4, 2-6, 6-4, 7-6
Semi-finals: Beat Andrei Chesnokov (Russia) 6-1, 5-7, 7-6, 7-5
Final: Beat Stefan Edberg (Sweden) 6-1, 3-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2
You can watch Chang speak about the 1989 French Open campaign and the highlights of the final against Stephen Edberg here: