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Friday, August 7, 2009

Chang and Goldstein Draw Large Crowd in Kalamazoo Despite Rain

©Colette Lewis 2009--
Kalamazoo, MI--

Former Kalamazoo champions Michael Chang and Paul Goldstein returned to Stowe Stadium on Friday, and despite a very bleak weather forecast, so did several thousand tennis fans. Eager to see Chang, who took the 18s title in 1987 and Goldstein, who won titles in 1992, 1993 and 1994, they sat patiently through several rain delays--a half an hour here, ten minutes there--and were rewarded with one pro set of tennis. Chang and Goldstein defeated No. 1 boys doubles seeds Daniel Nguyen and JT Sundling 8-5, just as yet another shower arrived, and the singles exhibition that was to follow was cancelled.

At the sponsor party prior to the exhibition, and in remarks prior to the match when interviewed by local radio personality Lori Moore, both players used some impressive superlatives when describing their experiences in Kalamazoo.

Chang mentioned that he and Jim Courier, who last week played an exhibition match in conjunction with the Los Angeles ATP event, had split their 32 meetings as professionals. When interviewed after their match about which of those contests was the most memorable, Chang looked at Courier and Courier said, "no, don't say it," but Chang did offer that 1987 final on center court of Stowe Stadium as more noteworthy than any of those 16 professional encounters.

Goldstein was equally as effusive in his praise of the city and the tournament. Not only did Goldstein win three singles titles, he also won a doubles title and a sportsmanship award, and even with his four NCAA titles as a member of the Stanford Cardinal, and a ten-year professional career, he looks back on Kalamazoo as some of his happiest times on the tennis court.

With so many stops and starts throughout the match, neither team could really find a rhythm, but Chang and Goldstein used their experience to keep Nguyen and Sundling off balance. Chang hit several lob returns to add an element of doubt into the net-rushing juniors, and pounded a couple of forehand winners when he needed them. Goldstein poached regularly, always ending the point quickly, and usually winning it for his team. As always in doubles, there were several head-shaking points, where drop volleys and lobs and smashes were somehow improbably returned. The appreciative crowd, most of whom stayed around after the first rain delay, was left wanting more, but the weather refused to cooperate. Instead, the fans had the opportunity to ask for an autograph or a photograph with two popular past champions, who seemed as genuinely happy to be in Kalamazoo as the was to have them back.

Earlier Friday, the first round of 18 singles were completed, and two rounds of 18 doubles. The big surprise was the loss of No. 3 seeds Jordan Cox and Raymond Sarmiento, who fell in two tiebreakers to Jonathan Chang and Alex Van Veltzer. Chang and Van Veltzer won four tiebreakers in a row Friday, after dropping the first set 6-4 in their opening round match. The only other seeded team to lose was Greg Andrews and Zachary Leslie, the 11th seeds, who went out to Warren Hardie and Casey McMaster 4-6, 7-5, 6-1.

The 18s seeds take the court on Saturday, and the 16s will begin play with first round singles and two rounds of doubles, weather permitting. Currently the forecast includes a 60% chance of rain.

For match times and draws, see ustaboys.com.