Michael Chang is easily the most decorated Asian-American tennis player, a Grand Slam and Davis Cup champion at one time ranked No. 2 in the world. His epic victory over Ivan Lendl at the 1989 French Open, when he won the tournament at the age of 17, is still stuff of legends. But to Chang, a devout Christian, his victory had a more significant purpose.
"A lot of people forget that Tiananmen Square (massacre) was going on. The crackdown that happened was on the middle Sunday at the French Open, so if I was not practicing or playing a match, I was glued to the television, watching the events unfold. Â… I often tell people I think it was God's purpose for me to be able to win the French Open the way it was won because I was able to put a smile on Chinese people's faces around the world at a time when there wasn't much to smile about."
Chang's parents fled China for Taiwan after the Communist takeover of the mainland in 1949 and subsequently moved to the U.S. in the 1960s. Chang, born in Hoboken, N.J. and grew up in Southern California, was a tennis prodigy and dominated the junior circuit before turning pro at the age of 16. A year later, he would become (and still is) the youngest man to win a Grand Slam tournament before leading the U.S. to a Davis Cup title, winning a memorable tie against Austria in front of a hostile crowd in Vienna.
Despite his diminutive build (5-foot-9), Chang made up for his lack of size with determination and quickness. In addition to his French Open title, he also won seven Masters Series championships. He was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2008.