Who is Michael Chang?

Those who follow tennis are sure to know, as Chang – with a mounting number of exceptional achievements under his belt – is well-known to the athletic world. Chang was the first Asian tennis player to hit the top 10 world rankings, the youngest male ever to win a Grand Slam title (the 1989 French Open) at the age of 17 years, and the first American to lift the Trophy since Tony Trabert in 1955. In other words, Chang not only played and defeated today’s familiar tennis stars, but also knew them on a personal, and often spiritual level.

Chang is a devout Christian who obviously enjoys sharing his faith and perspective with those who are willing to listen. As part of his “farewell tour,” Chang spoke at Azusa Pacific University’s chapel service on October 17. Even with his streak of accomplishments, Chang decided to end his legendary career on Tuesday, August 26, 2003 at the U.S. Open, where he played an astonishing 17 times. In hopes of making an impact among the lives on young Christians, Chang shared his unique testimony in a display of enthusiasm and passion for living a life devoted to God.

After chapel, Chang joined the APU tennis team for a luncheon and question-and-answer session. Students showered Chang with questions that ranged from general tennis technique to the challenges of remaining pure despite the typical lifestyle of those among his profession.

Regarding training, Chang admitted not spending the time he should have as a youth due to his parents insistence on his finishing high school, thus having something to fall back on if things did not work out. “After all,” said Chang, “how many people actually make it as a professional athlete?” As it turned out, Chang passed the General Efficiency Diploma exam, allowing him to leave school and begin touring at age 15. Commenting on the difficulty in making friends on the road when such a large age gap existed between himself and the other players, Chang said, “My mom traveled with me for the first four years of my career, which was a huge sacrifice as she was unable to see my father all that time. She was my best friend and I was able to make a lot of friends on tour because of her.”

Students were interested to hear how Chang coped with maintaining a routine spiritual life while on the road and within the potential influence of non-Christians. “There are very few Christian tennis players, so I had many opportunities to share with the players. Unfortunately, very few people took it to heart, although at times I was successful in organizing devotionals. It’s hard to maintain that focus and remain consistent in devotions, Bible studies, and church due to the frequent moving and language barriers,” Chang said.

Having prayed with Andre Agassi, fished with Pete Sampras, and presented Ivan Lendl with a Bible, Chang’s tennis career will not only be remembered for the way he stretched himself but for, as the New York Times stated, “his impact on others.”

Concluding with words intended to inspire, Chang said, “God is using you as you are in school. Your job may not be to bring them to the Lord, but instead to plant that seed. Someone else might come along and water it. It’s up to you to stir their heart.”