Most Memorable French Open Moments: #3 The Serve Heard ‘Round The World

Heading into The French Open in 1989, Ivan Lendl was clearly the best male player in the world. With only rival Mats Wilander posing a threat on his side of the bracket, Lendl’s road to at least the semifinals seemed clear.

Ivan The Terrible

That is, until he met 17-year old Michael Chang from the United States.

So maybe the trophy is a slight spoiler…

Losing the first two sets 6-4, 6-4, Chang dug his claws into the match and began to play a reckless, take-no-prisoners style of tennis. Chasing down every single ball Lendl struck his way, Chang went for broke whenever he had the opportunity- hitting winners, drop shots, moonballs, lobs and then dazzling the French crowd with fierce passing shots.

Deep into the match, Lendl was rattled. Chang, fighting his own demons in the form of excruciating cramps and exhaustion, sensed this and “served up” one of the wisest moments in tennis history:

Changing up the pace by serving underhand, Chang put what may have been the final nail in Lendl’s coffin. Though the young American continued to battle his own body, Lendl never regained a foothold in the 4th round match.

Michael Chang prevailed 4-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 and went on to stun Stefan Edberg in the finals to become the youngest male Grand Slam champion ever at 17 years old.

Today this 4th round match between Ivan Lendl and Michael Chang is remembered as the very reason why tennis is so compelling: its mano-a-mano style forces one man or woman to be better than another, and on any given Sunday, anyone can rise or fall.

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