Chang teaches kids a lesson

Michael Chang, one of the participants in Friday night’s Montreal Rendez Vous at the Bell Centre, was pressed into service at the last minute.

The man scheduled to give a clinic for the juniors at the Nun’s Island Tennis Club, Ivan Lendl, found his plane delayed by the weather.

So Chang stepped in. And the kids were pretty rapt with attention. They also were probably surprised that a player with his pedigree wasn’t any taller than many of them.

The kid who used to insert an average of six “Um”s and “You know”s in every sentence has turned into a beautifully well-spoken adult, comfortable in his own skin, self-deprecating and, most of all, full of great advice.

Really, who’d have thought he was a natural at it?

He didn’t seem to mind a bit being asked, probably for the millionth time in his life, about the time he served underhand to Ivan Lendl in the semifinals of the 1989 French Open, on his way to a Grand Slam title at the tender age of 17.

Actually, that was probably one of the parents, since the kids weren’t even a gleam in someone’s eye when that happened.

He asked them which of the big American Four of his era – himself, Jim Courier, Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras – had the best junior career. And as he pointed out that Sampras had never won a big junior title, he made the subtle point that junior tennis is junior tennis, but it doesn’t always translate to the pros.

In other words, take the long view.