Michael Chang's French Open finale was forgotten the moment he lost, as thoughts turned to 1989.
When he walked off center court Tuesday following his last match at Roland Garros, French fans rose to applaud an aging player whose greatest moment came at 17 on the same rust-colored stage.
The worldly Chang knows that a standing ovation for an American in Paris is a rare thing, and it left him fighting back tears.
Chang's game has slipped so badly that he was beaten 7-5, 6-1, 6-1 by an opponent with a seven-match losing streak, fellow thirtysomething Fabrice Santoro. But the postmatch tribute removed much of the sting.
"This tournament has been so special to me," Chang told the crowd, his voice breaking. "The funny thing is that in my 16-year career, I've only cried twice, and both times were on this court."
He first wept in 1989, when he mounted a remarkable run to his only Grand Slam title. Cramps reduced him to serving underhand in the round of 16, but he still managed to beat Ivan Lendl. In the final he upset Stefan Edberg to become the youngest men's Grand Slam champion.
"I played a lot of great chess when I won in '89," he said. "You tell a story like that to your children. The next evening, the children say, `Can you tell that to me again, daddy? And let me know, is that a true story, or are you just making it up?'"
Chang, 31, would have scripted his departure to include a few rounds of victories. But he has won only one match this year and admits he's wearing down, which is why he plans to retire after the US Open.