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Chang holds court in Costa Mesa

Tennis

Former French Open champion speaks to young tennis players during the Michael Chang Tennis Classic on Friday.

July 27, 2012|By David Carrillo PeƱaloza
  • Former Olympian Kaitlin Sandeno shares stories as she speaks in front of high school players during the Michael Chang Tennis Tournament in Costa Mesa Friday.
Former Olympian Kaitlin Sandeno shares stories as she… (KEVIN CHANG, Daily…)

COSTA MESA — Michael Chang grabbed the microphone and began to talk to teenagers about one of his greatest feats in tennis.

At 17 years, 3 months old, Chang became the youngest male to win a Grand Slam singles title.

The teenagers knew the event, the French Open. As for when Chang won it, not so much.

"That year for me in '89," Chang said before pausing. "Actually, none of you guys were born yet, huh? There's a reality check."

Chang drew laughter during the first day of his Michael Chang Tennis Classic on Friday. At 40, he can no longer play as he used to, but Chang can still captivate an audience.

Dozens of youngsters came to the Costa Mesa Tennis Center to meet and listen to Chang. He wasn't the only former champion holding court.

With the opening ceremony of the London Games getting underway on the same day, the Michael Chang Tennis Classic had a little Olympic flavor. Kaitlin Sandeno brought her gold, silver and bronze medals she won as a U.S. swimmer at the Sydney Games and Athens Games.

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Chang was impressed with the bling. He competed in as many Olympics as Sandeno, but never earned a medal.

"I am so jealous of that right there," said Chang, while pointing at the medals on a table. "I am so jealous of Kaitlin. She's got to show that off. That is one of the coolest things."

Getting to meet and take a picture with Chang was cool to Jennifer Kingsley.

The incoming freshman at Newport Harbor High is in the tournament, which is raising money this year for Habitat for Humanity of Orange County.

Kingsley gets to compete in the tournament because it introduced a high school division in its second year.

"I knew who Michael Chang was, but he was famous before I was born," said Kingsley, adding that she felt inspired.

She needed a lift after she dropped her first match in the non-sanctioned United States Tennis Assn. tournament.

The three-day tournament also has matches at the Newport Beach Tennis Club, the Racquet Club of Irvine and the Palisades Tennis Club. Playing in tournaments is something Chang stressed.

"You guys work so hard in practice out there with your coaches and doing drills, all these different things to help you guys become better players," Chang said. "Tournaments really kind of give you a chance to take your exam so to speak. I think it actually helps you to become a much better player."

Chang's path to stardom began in tournament play as a junior.

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