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Chang, champ of French Open at age 17, inducted into Hall

7/13/2008 - Tennis

NEWPORT, R.I. -- Michael Chang finds it appropriate he's receiving his sport's highest honor as China awaits the Olympics.

Chang was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame on Saturday and reflected on his experiences as a Chinese-American athlete. He won the 1989 French Open at age 17 -- the youngest man to win a major -- as the Tiananmen Square protests in Beijing were escalating into bloodshed.

"For me, at the French Open, if I wasn't playing my match I was glued to CNN watching the events unfold," Chang said during a news conference before his induction. "The crackdown actually happened that Sunday of the French Open."

Inducted posthumously were contributors Mark McCormack and Eugene Scott. Scott, the founder, editor and publisher during his 30 years at Tennis Week, was presented by John McEnroe. Monica Seles presented McCormack, the founder of International Management Group.

Unlike his days on the court, the 36-year-old Chang had the spotlight all to himself Saturday, not having to share the moment with the likes of Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, Ivan Lendl and Boris Becker.

"I think any generation that follows our generation -- its tough to compete," he said. "As an athlete, I used my speed, agility and quickness to go out and play against the big guys."

Chang finished with 34 titles. He was a finalist at the 1995 French Open, 1996 U.S. Open and 1996 Australian Open. He became the first American to win the French since Tony Trabert in 1955.

"For me, I think the Lord wanted me to win to put a smile on Chinese people's faces," he said.

Now, China hosts the Olympics next month.

"I think it's a very special year for Beijing," Chang said. "I'm really excited for what's going to happen for China. I was acting as an ambassador to help China get the bid."

Seles recalled how Scott helped her after she was stabbed in the back by a spectator during a 1993 match in Germany.

"When I was No. 1 in the world after I got stabbed," she said, "he was there as a friend."