Tarbes, France: Her father Michael Chang won the tournament in 1986, and her mother Amber Liu played it in 1997: this week Lani Chang is writing a page in her family’s “beautiful history” at the Petits As, the “children’s Grand Slam”.
Sitting alone in the front row courtside, Michael Chang, who won the French Open in 1989, remained mostly impassive during his 13-year-old daughter’s first-round match on the centre court at Tarbes in the south-west of France on Monday, apart from occasional muted applause.
Yet he acknowledged that emotions ran high under his white cap as he watched the eldest of his three children follow in his footsteps, 38 years after he won in his first overseas event.
“I’m always proud of her, whatever the result,” he said after a brief family hug.
It’s very special for both of us to be here in Tarbes. We have a great history here. Because I played here and my wife also played here.”
Michael Chang’s unexpected triumph at Roland-Garros three years later, aged just 17, helped build the reputation of the Petits As. It has since become the unofficial world championship for 12-14 year-olds, a must for tennis hopefuls. Lani Chang is one of them.
The teenager with the prestigious pedigree made a successful debut on Monday, beating French 13-year-old Margot Bouchelaghem, eight months older but smaller, 2-6, 6-1, 6-1.
“It’s a really prestigious junior tournament. So many great players came here,” Lani Chang said after her victory.
She said to benefit from her parents’ feedback was “really helpful”.
At 51, her father divides his time between the Chang Family Foundation, a community organisation combining sport and Christian values, and his role as coach to Japan’s Kei Nishikori, a former world No. 4, now ranked 349th, and his daughter.
“I try to keep things very light. I think it’s almost too easy sometimes to be very hard,” he said.
“I think it’s really important when they are this young to go out there and have fun. And have a passion for the sport. And then continue to work hard and see where things go.”
Coach Chang has not yet taught Lani the underarm serve with which the cramping American teenage surprised world number one Ivan Lendl in the late stages of a come-from-behind five-set upset in the round of 16 at the 1989 French Open.
“I think just watching now the players on tour, you don’t need me to teach ... It’s not something I have to teach anymore because they see it all the time,” he said laughing.
His eldest daughter dreams of winning “Grand Slams”.
She added when asked which parent she takes after more.
“Mum or dad? A bit of a mix. I have my mum’s bulk. Dad is like smart, with variety.
She added: “His experience and knowledge is very helpful. I just love training with him. He’s an amazing dad.
“What really helps with the relationship, with him being my dad and my coach is just he knows my limits. He knows when to push me, when to take a break.”
Lani won in doubles on Tuesday and plays her second-round singles match on Wednesday.
The Chang family isn’t the only tennis family represented in Tarbes this week.
Evgenii Kafelnikov, nephew of former Russian world number one Yevgeny is entered in the boys draw.