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Chang comeback falls short

June 24, 1997

WIMBLEDON, England (AP) _ With a marathon loss, Michael Chang made another quick exit at Wimbledon.

The tenacious American rallied from a 5-1 deficit in the final set Tuesday but couldn’t finish off Todd Woodbridge, who won 7-6 (7-5), 3-6, 6-2, 3-6, 8-6. The Centre Court match began in sunshine and ended in overcast twilight 3 hours and 55 minutes later.

Chang lost in the opening round at Wimbledon for the fourth time and the second year in a row.

``I had opportunities today to fight my way through,″ he said. ``Unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be.″

The 25-year-old Chang has never reached the Wimbledon quarterfinals in 10 tries. Partly for that reason, he was seeded fifth even though he’s ranked second in the world.

Chang arrived in London with little momentum. He won four tournaments in the first four months of the year but hasn’t reached a final in his past six tournaments. He lost in the fourth round at the French Open.

``I haven’t been able to do as well on the clay or the grass as I have on the hardcourts,″ he said. ``That’s a little bit disappointing.″

Chang was 11-2 previously against Woodbridge, an Australian ranked 37th. But this time Chang kept falling behind, and he trailed 4-0 and 5-1 in the last set before mounting a final charge.

Woodbridge helped, double-faulting twice when serving for the match to make it 5-5. Chang held serve for a 6-5 lead, but Woodbridge regrouped, evened the set at 6-all and broke at love in the pivotal 13th game.

``I thought I was going to win it,″ Chang said. ``I didn’t give him anything. He came up with the shots he needed at the end.″

Woodbridge and partner Mark Woodforde are going for a fifth consecutive Wimbledon doubles title, but singles success has been elusive for the 26-year-old Australian.

``This could be my biggest win,″ he said. ``When you win a match as huge as that on Centre Court at Wimbledon _ the crowd was like bananas and at the end there were (camera) flashes going off and it was a bit like a pop concert.

``When you’re in the middle of that, it’s a huge feeling.″

Woodbridge was unwilling to bow out, even as he and Chang left the court. Chang, mindful of Wimbledon protocol regarding royalty, shot Woodbridge a look.

``He thought I’d forgotten to bow,″ Woodbridge said. ``But I said, `They’re not here.′ He said, `Oh,′ and that was it. You don’t have to bow when they’re not sitting there.″

It was another lesson for Chang at Wimbledon.

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