50 Years, 50 Heroes: Michael Chang, 1994

by: Blair Henley | December 12, 2018

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For our sixth annual Heroes Issue, we’ve selected passages from the last 50 years of Tennis Magazine and TENNIS.com—starting in 1969 and ending in 2018—to highlight 50 worthy heroes. Each passage acknowledges the person as they were then; each subsequent story catches up with the person, or highlights their impact, as they are now. It is best summed up with a quote from the great Arthur Ashe, that was featured on the cover of the November/December issue of this magazine in 2015: “True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.”

Ever cognizant of his mission in China, Chang maintained a low profile in Beijing. After each of his matches, he would glance up at the spectators, who sat above a wall that stood 10 feet tall around the court. Once the final was over, Chang climbed into the stands and spent 45 minutes signing autographs—something he does with the same patience and courtesy everywhere. And he always signs the same way: “Jesus Loves You—Michael Chang.” - Peter Bodo / April 1994

As 17-year-old Michael Chang marched through the 1989 Roland Garros draw, he spent his downtime watching coverage of the demonstrations in China’s Tiananmen Square, where thousands matched in protest.

“I remember having these physically demanding matches where I had to fight through cramps, and I also remember seeing kids stand in front of tanks to fight for democracy,” Chang says.

“I told myself what I was going through on the court was nothing.” 

By tournament’s end, the New Jersey native had outlasted players like Ivan Lendl and Stefan Edberg to become the youngest man to ever win a Grand Slam singles title. The title launched Chang’s Hall of Fame career, but he never struggled to put his success into perspective. He viewed his talent through the lens of his Christian faith, always looking for ways to use his international platform for maximum impact.

At 46 years old, Chang still lives life on a mission. He and his wife Amber run the Chang Family Foundation, which primarily raises money for the homeless population in Orange County, CA. His annual tournament and exhibition fundraiser has become one of the largest events of its kind in California.

Almost 30 years after his Roland Garros title, Chang is also a consistent presence on tour as a coach of Kei Nishikori. Over the past five years, he has traveled with the Japanese superstar for about 25 weeks per year, often with his wife and three kids in tow. As Nishikori wraps up a practice, it’s common for Chang to get just as many autograph requests as his student. And he signs each one of them the same way he did during his prime.

“Working with Kei does give me more visibility,” Chang says. “For anyone in a situation to impact lives, you should take advantage of it.”

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