The Day A Cramping Roddick Turned Tables On Chang
Michael Chang made his Grand Slam breakthrough at 1989 Roland Garros after overcoming severe cramps to defeat Ivan Lendl en route to winning the title. Twelve years later, he found himself on the same court staring at another cramping American teenager in Andy Roddick.
Their five-set, second-round clash was seen as a changing of the guard in American tennis as the 18-year-old Roddick prevailed 5-7, 6-3, 6-4, 6-7(5), 7-5 after three hours and 50 minutes. Roddick, then No. 48 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, grimaced and hopped on one foot between points in the fifth set, even leaning on a linesman for support. But he also broke the record for most aces in a match at Roland Garros (37) since the ATP started keeping stats in 1991.
After Chang hit a backhand wide on match point, Roddick broke down in tears as he hobbled to the net. The crowd rose in unison and began chanting his name. Despite the disappointing defeat, the always classy Chang imparted a few words of wisdom as they shook hands.
“One of the cool moments was when we shook hands and Michael said, ‘Listen, I’ve cramped. I’ve done this before. Here’s what you need to do,’” Roddick recalled to Tennis Channel. “He went point by point as to how I could best recover. It was a real lesson learned on how to prepare yourself going into the match.”
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The similarities between Roddick’s victory and Chang’s heroic comeback in 1989 weren’t lost on the rising American. He cited the match with Lendl as one of his biggest motivators growing up.
“It was going through my head while I was out there,” Roddick said. “That match was one of my first memories of tennis. I went out after it and played for three hours. It really inspired me.”
Although Chang’s best years were behind him in the 2000s, beating him on red clay was still a difficult task. He was full of praise for Roddick afterwards and wanted to see his opponent continue forward in the draw.
“At that point, I figured that I’m out of the tournament and he’s an American. All Americans want other Americans to do well,” Chang said of his advice at the net. “Obviously it was an incredible match… It was ridiculous how high and deep his serve was kicking.”
Roddick was forced to retire midway through his next match with Lleyton Hewitt due to a strained left thigh. Although the American struggled in Paris throughout his career and never reached the quarter-finals, he would go on to capture the 2003 US Open title and finish that season as year-end No. 1.