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NO PLACE TO GO BUT UP
Frank Deford
September 14, 1987
That's how the U.S. and U.S.S.R. feel about tennis
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September 14, 1987

No Place To Go But Up

That's how the U.S. and U.S.S.R. feel about tennis

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One Soviet player, Andrei Chesnokov, a human backboard in wrinkled clothes and droopy socks who makes the Swedes seem scintillating, reached the round of 16 at Flushing Meadow last year. Last week the draw exploded a hole for him that was bigger than the one Mathias Rust found in Soviet air defenses. But the big Soviet hope is Natalia Zvereva, who's bright and peppy and only 10 months older than Chang. Chris Evert clobbered her in the third round on Sunday, but as Morozova says, "People from cold climates grow up later."

If the U.S.S.R. gets a box-office star, that player might get peeved at having all the rubles sent back to the national federation while his or her opponents are buying estates in Connecticut. Morozova, a delightful woman who favors Yves St. Laurent sunglasses, acknowledges that that day must come if the glasnost gang stays on tour, which it must do to stay competitive for Seoul and, more realistically, for Barcelona in '92. "I will say something," she says, "but the time is not for now."

Big-time tennis has two distinct faces. Off the court, it is all American. Everybody talks American, dresses American, rocks American, looks American and, more or less, wants to be American. On the court, however, the nationalistic European system is what builds winners. It is no coincidence that the dominant champions of the mid-'80s have been Martina Navratilova and Lendl, who were born European and train European but live American. The U.S., no less than the U.S.S.R., must understand that reality, and the U.S. Tennis Association took a first step the other day when it proposed a European-type system for finding and schooling American talent.

Chang is an anomaly because Asian-Americans have seldom been noted for their athletic prowess. But how about Chung, the Celestial Comet, who became famous when his gridiron exploits were reported in newspapers week after week? In fact, he didn't exist. The Chinese halfback was one of the greatest hoaxes in U.S. sports history.

But Chang is quite real. And so, for that matter, is Tommy Ho, a 14-year-old Chinese-American from Winter Haven, Fla., who some think is an even better prospect. Asian-American kids are on the cover of TIME, win all the science competitions and flood the best campuses. Chang is Chinese chic—and never mind that he lost in the second round to Duke Odizor, 29, of Nigeria. The American kid fought back from being down 6-1, 6-2 to carry Odizor to five sets.

Chang's grandfather, Michael Tung, waited for him after the match. Tung grew up in Hankow, fled to Taiwan when Mao took over in 1949 and eventually brought his family to America. Someone said he must be proud of his grandson. "Yes, but I am proud of my daughter, too," he said. "I'm proud of Betty that she brought up such a wonderful son of the United States."

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