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Second Serve


By Nick Georgandis

The 1989 men's French Open top four seeds could give today's Big Four a run for its money. By May of 1989, No. 1 seed Ivan Lendl had seven Grand Slams and had started the year by winning the Australian Open; second-seed Boris Becker had a pair of Slams and would win both Wimbledon and the US Open later that year; No. 3 Stefan Edberg had three Slams under his belt and fourth-seeded Mats Wilander had seven Slams and was the tournament's defending champion.
Then there was American Michael Chang, who had turned 17 three months prior to the start of Roland Garros. The teenager had missed the first month of the season and was a ho-hum 12-6 since, ranked 19th in the world and the French Open's No. 15 seed.
Chang lost his first set in his opening match, but rebounded from there, winning his next nine sets, including a 6-1, 6-1, 6-1 bull rush of fellow 17-year-old American Pete Sampras in the second round. A quality run looked over when Chang encountered Lendl in the fourth round and fell behind 4-6, 4-6, but in one of the most legendary performances of all-time, Chang rallied to win the next three sets 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 with a variety of unorthodox shots and psychological warfare - firing moon shots, serving underhand and standing near the T-line at center court when Lendl was serving to throw him off. The match took 4 hours and 37 minutes and Chang admitted later that he had suffered from such terrible cramps, he had considered retiring in the fifth set, even when up 2-1. 
With Lendl out, the other top three seeds made the quarterfinals, but defending champion Wilander was shocked by unseeded Russian Andrei Chesnokov in straight sets. Meanwhile Becker and Edberg both swept their quarterfinals and clashed in a tremendous semifinal, which Edberg won despite blowing a two-set lead, 6-3, 6-4, 5-7, 3-6, 6-2.
Chang faced fierce competition from Chesnokov but prevailed in four, setting up the teenager against Edberg, who had never been past the tournament's quarterfinals before.
Chang delivered a 6-1 first-set win, but Edberg won the next two sets. Following his win over Lendl, however, nothing seemed impossible for Chang, and he took the next two sets, 6-4, 6-2, becoming the youngest male player ever to win a Grand Slam title. 
It would be the only Slam Chang ever won, although he reached the finals of two others and had 34 singles titles to his credit overall. Edberg had three Slams left in his system, winning Wimbledon in 1990 and the US Open in 1991 and 1992. However, he never made it back to the French Open final, and it remained the missing piece in his quest for a career Grand Slam.