In the lead up to this year’s French Open, the readers of USA Today were asked to submit questions to Michael Chang, the 1989 French Open Singles Champion.
Six questions were selected including one which was submitted by MiamiTennisBlog.com.
Below is the question along with Chang’s response which can also be found in today’s sports section of USAToday.com.
Q: What exactly makes the French Open the great equalizer of the 4 Grand Slams? Over the years we have seen this title elude some of the sport’s greatest players (McEnroe, Sampras, Edberg, Becker, Federer to name a few). Please provide us with a champion’s perspective on what makes it so difficult to conquer the red clay at Roland Garros.
A: The French Open is without question the most grueling grand slam of the four. It’s not uncommon for matches to last over 4 hours. With varying conditions, slower courts, longer matches and higher bouncing balls, it creates a different type of tennis that many of the greatest players have yet to figure out. Most try to just take their regular fast court style of tennis and play with a little more patience. The problem is that what would normally be a winner on any other surface, comes back at you with a kind of ‘is that the best shot you can hit’ attitude. And it’s only natural for the best players to try and go for more rather than have a mentality of hitting 3, 4, 5 or even 10 shots just to win one point. The best clay courters have this mentality and go into each match with a great deal of patience, working the ball and working the ball until you get the right opening or until your opponent is so far off the court they can’t recover. Granted, matches can be won with a go for broke type of style and game but over 2 weeks and having to win 7 tough matches each being 3 out of 5 sets is a tall order for pure attacking players to accomplish. In order for them to break through, they need just the right amount of fire power coupled with patience and a great strategy which includes just as much defensive play as offensive play. And to be honest, it’s tough for attacking power players to do that. They only really know how to be aggressive.
The smart players know that one of the best ways to beat the aggressive, attacking players is to either put them on the defensive somehow so they can’t play their best game or invite them to play on clay!