Michael Chang has spent his tennis career looking up to people, at least in the physical sense. "The guys have always been big, it's just that now they're getting a little bit bigger," the 28-year-old American said, after winning his opening round match at the Ericsson Open. "Being escorted by him doesn't make it any easier as far as being reminded." That was not a reference to his Costa Rican opponent, Juan Antonio Marin, who, like Chang, is 5ft 9in, but to David Law, a 6ft 7in Englishman who brings players to the interview room as part of his job as an ATP Tour communications manager.
Take Law out of the picture, and Chang still is not as big as he used to be, his world ranking having diminished from a high of No 2 in 1996 to No 50 at the end of last year, when he failed to reach a final for the first time since turning professional in 1988.
Chang at least has improved on that this season, advancing to the final in Auckland in January before losing to Sweden's Magnus Norman, currently in third place in the ATP Champions Race. Chang, 34th in the Race and No 37 in the ATP Tournament Entry System, has also made a brighter start in Key Biscayne, having lost to Marin, 7-6, 7-6, in the first round last year. Size should not be a factor in the second round, either, when Chang's opponent is the 5ft 9in Chilean left-hander Marcelo Rios, who is remembered for packing the upper-deck of the 14,000-seat stadium with countrymen two years ago when defeating Andre Agassi in the final to become Latin America's first ever world No 1.
Injuries have restricted Rios's ratio of success since then, but the No 8 seed feels comfortable on the concrete courts and may feel it is time to start reversing the six consecutive defeats he has suffered in his previous matches against Chang. "Records are records," Chang said. "You put them aside each time you go up against the guy. Marcelo is not an easy player to play against, obviously. You have it a little bit in the back of your mind. I feel like I'm in a situation where I don't have anything to lose; just go out and hopefully be able to play my heart out." Chang won the title here in 1992, when the Spaniard Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario took the women's singles, creating a mood of nostalgia about their triumphs as teenagers at the 1989 French Open. One of the most memorable features of Chang's victory at Key Biscayne was his straight-sets win against the hard-hitting Jim Courier, then the world No 1, in the semi-finals - an hour after the sport's administrators had aired their fears about the power of the game at a seminar.
As Chang and Marin walked on the court for their match on Thursday night, Bruce Springsteen's "Glory Days" was played over the PA system by way of an introduction. Chang was asked if he had requested the song and what thoughts went through his mind when he heard it. "I didn't request it," he said. "And I didn't have any thoughts about it besides that it was a good song. I don't play so much in the past unless someone asks me."
The two-time US Open champion Pat Rafter, not long back from an injury lay-off, has been named in Australia's squad for next month's Davis Cup quarter-final against Germany in Adelaide. Rafter will join Lleyton Hewitt, Mark Philippoussis, Wayne Arthurs, Todd Woodbridge, Mark Woodforde and Sandon Stolle for the match on grass at Memorial Drive from 7-9 April.
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