Former French Open champion and World No. 2 Michael Chang is the latest player to be featured on Behind the Racquet, the platform created by Noah Rubin where tennis players share their stories. Chang, who is now 48 years old, was the youngest male player in history to win a Grand Slam, winning the 1989 French Open at 17 years and 95 days old.
He says if there was one thing he would change about his time on the tour, it would be his mentality. "I think that there's probably one thing I would change about my time on tour- my mentality. When you're on tour, you have invincibility, to some degree.
You don’t realize how quickly the time goes by. I think sometimes you're out there playing and you're thinking, ‘Okay, I'm done with this year. I have next year on the tour.’ I turned pro slightly before my 16th birthday.
I retired just before my 32nd birthday. Those years just went by in the blink of an eye. Looking back, I could have enjoyed some moments a bit more, such as tournament victories. I think sometimes you win a tournament and if it's a smaller tournament, you don't really think twice about it.
You kind of just say, ‘Okay, it was a great tournament, I won it. Next week.’ I probably would have taken more time to enjoy being ranked number two in the world. I also might have changed my mentality in certain aspects of training.
Had I known that I was going to play professionally for over fifteen years, I probably would have approached training differently. Today, players on tour have great longevity thanks to how they take care of their bodies. This process is much more advanced now and is very beneficial to a lot of the older players.
Many guys in the Top 10 can now play through their mid-to-late 30s. You surely didn’t see this in my generation." Chang continues to remain involved in tennis - as a coach. He has been working with Kei Nishikori for some time now.
"Coaching is not very difficult since I was a thinking player. I didn’t have the size or the power, I had to think my way through matches. As a coach, I dissect a player's style and create strategy, this is similar to what I did on tour.
A more difficult aspect about being a coach is sitting in the stands, knowing that I cannot do anything more for the player during the match. If I see a pattern taking place that is hurting my player and he is not picking up on it, it's difficult to watch.
For me, whether I'm out helping Kei, my daughter, or a club player, it's just a matter of enjoying it and helping players improve. It is rewarding to see the satisfaction on their faces when they say, ‘I understand that, I got it and wow, that works.’ For Kei, the rewards were the results that happened on tour.
They came pretty quickly, which was a good thing, Kei is one of those players that picks things up incredibly fast. In so many ways, he is a joy to coach."