December 13, 1992: Michael Stich eases past Chang to win Grand Slam Cup


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December 13, 1992: Michael Stich eases past Chang to win Grand Slam Cup

Back in 1991, the 22-year-old German Michael Stich made a breakthrough run on the Tour, winning 73 matches and claiming his first and only Major crown at Wimbledon after wins over Jim Courier, Stefan Edberg and Boris Becker in back-to-back matches! Michael wasn't capable of repeating that in the following year, winning just 47 matches and dropping out from the top-10.

Nonetheless, he secured the place at the Grand Slam Cup at the Olympiahalle in Munich where he had a chance to play for the big title in front of the home crowd. There were no points awarded as this presented the rival of the Masters Cup but the players had the opportunity to earn a huge $2 million prize money, by far the biggest one in the sport! This was the third edition of the tournament that kicked off in 1990 and the top seeds were Stefan Edberg, Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras and Goran Ivanisevic.

In the opening match, Michael Stich toppled Edberg 7-6 6-7 8-6 in a classic encounter between serve&volley players on the fast indoor surface, with Ivanisevic, McEnroe, Sampras, Krajicek and Chang (he defeated Agassi) reaching the last eight.

There, Stich prevailed over Krajicek 7-6 7-5 to set the semi-final clash against Pete Sampras, while Ivanisevic and Chang forged the second semi-final duel. After an amazing battle, Stich prevailed against the 1990 champion Sampras 7-6 7-6 3-6 7-6 to set the title match with Chang who needed more than three and a half hours to oust Goran Ivanisevic 6-7 6-2 6-4 3-6 6-3 for the second consecutive Grand Slam Cup final, losing to David Wheaton in 1991.

On December 13, Michael Stich scored a 6-2 6-3 6-2 win over the American in two hours and five minutes to claim the title that pretty much saved the season and earn amazing $2 million, four times more than he did in the rest of the season combined! Earlier that year, Chang toppled Stich in Antwerp on a similar court but he stood no chance in this match, unable to grab another close win after that tough battle against Ivanisevic on the previous day.

The German won almost 30 points more than his opponent and he had the upper hand from start to finish, hitting 24 service winners and additional 16 from his volley that Chang failed to tame. The American managed to convert just one out of eight break points he earned and that was never enough against such a strong rival who played rock solid tennis on the return, creating 17 break points in eight different return games and converting six to control the scoreboard all the time.

It seemed the match could have been very interesting after the opening few games, with Chang creating four break points in game three that could have given him an initial advantage. Stich fends them off with winners and he broke in game six after a terrible volley from Chang at the net.

The German cemented the break with an ace in the following game and he closed the opener with another break in game eight when Chang netted an easy backhand. The home favorite served well in set number two as well and he scored a break at 4-3 after a loose forehand from Chang and sealing the set with four winners in game nine to move two sets to love up after less than 80 minutes of play.

Carried by this momentum, Stich broke at the start of the third set as well after forcing an error from his rival but Chang had the opportunity to make one last push, creating break points in the fourth game. He managed to stay safe against Stich's lethal volley and earn the desired break that kept him in contention but that didn't last for long, hitting a double fault in the very next game to fall behind once again.

The German made another big step towards the finish line when he landed a backhand down the line winner for another break in game seven and he saved a break point while serving for the match, clinching the triumph with a volley winner and becoming the third champion of the richest tennis tournament in the world.