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The oppressive heat and noticeably faster courts are among the current topics of talk at 2014 Australian Open, according to 1996 finalist and coach of Kei Nishikori Michael Chang.

“Players will find this year’s courts a lot faster than usual,” said Chang in an email from Australia provided by the PowerShares Series tennis circuit. “I haven’t been back to the Australian Open in quite a few years but I never recall it being this quick. Usually, it’s slower and higher bouncing but that definitely isn’t the case this year!”

Regarding the sometimes brutally hot Australian Open conditions:  “I think one of the topics this first week will be about how hot it’s expected to get,” said Chang. “With two days reaching almost 100 degrees and another over 100 degrees, it’s sure to affect some of the longer matches out there.”

Chang also spoke of his motivation for working with Nishikori, the Japanese player seeded No. 16 at the 2014 Australian Open.

“My motivation really comes from having the opportunity to work with another Asian male player who is almost on the brink of breaking through to the top 10,” said Chang, who reached a career-high ranking of No. 2. “There are very few Asian men who have reached this high and I feel like it’s a unique opportunity to help another Asian get to the highest level.”

Chang is one of four players ranked in the top eight of the 1992 ATP rankings now in the coaching ranks, joining Ivan Lendl, who is coaching Andy Murray, Boris Becker, who is coaching Novak Djokovic, and Stefan Edberg, who is working with Roger Federer. Chang said that this trend is an indication of the hard-core competitiveness among the top players and narrow margins between winning a major title and falling short.

“I personally think that players are just looking for an edge somewhere,” Chang said of the new coaching arrangements. “I can tell you that most likely, none of the legends coaches were looking for a coaching position as almost all of them are still playing their own Champion’s Tour events around the world, including me. I do think that all of these legends have a lot to offer since they all have experienced so much in their career.  It does add an extra element of intrigue to the men’s side though, that’s for sure.”

When asked of the most surprising coach-player combination, Chang said, “Becker-Djokovic surprises me the most.”

While in Melbourne with Nishikori, Chang is looking forward to workouts with Nishikori to sharpen his game in advance of playing on the PowerShares Series tennis circuit (www.PowerSharesSeries.com) where he will compete in the opening two events – Kansas City on Feb. 5 at the Sprint Center and Oklahoma City at the Chesapeake Energy Arena on Feb. 6 as well as the closing event on March 21 in Surprise, Ariz.

“Well, I’m assuming that if I can play well against Kei, I’ll be more than ready for the PowerShares Series in all three of those cities,” Chang said. “It’s been good so far and I hope I can take some of our on court work together onto the playing court when I compete.”

The full 2014 Power Shares Series schedule with field of players are as follows:

Wednesday, February 5, Kansas City, Missouri, Sprint Center – Ivan Lendl, John McEnroe, Jim Courier, Michael Chang

Thursday, February 6, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Chesapeake Energy Arena – Ivan Lendl, John McEnroe, Jim Courier, Michael Chang

Thursday, February 13, Birmingham, Alabama, Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex – John McEnroe, Andy Roddick, Jim Courier, Mark Philippoussis

Friday, February 14, Indianapolis, Bankers Life Fieldhouse – John McEnroe, Ivan Lendl, Jim Courier, Mark Philippoussis

Wednesday, February 19, Denver, Pepsi Center – Andy Roddick, James Blake, Jim Courier, Mark Philippoussis

Thursday, February 20, Houston, Toyota Center – Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, Andy Roddick, James Blake

Tuesday, February 25, Salt Lake City, Energy Solutions Arena – Pete Sampras, John McEnroe, Jim Courier, James Blake

Wednesday, February 26, Sacramento, Sleep Train Arena – Pete Sampras, John McEnroe, Jim Courier, James Blake

Thursday, February 27, Portland, Moda Center – Andre Agassi, John McEnroe, Jim Courier, James Blake

Wednesday, March 12 Nashville, Bridgestone Arena – John McEnroe, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors, Mats Wilander

Thursday, March 13, Charlotte, Time Warner Arena – John McEnroe, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors, Mats Wilander

Friday, March 21, Surprise, Surprise Stadium – Pete Sampras, Jim Courier, Todd Martin, Michael Chang

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Randy Walker is a communications and marketing specialist, writer, tennis historian and the managing partner of New Chapter Media – www.NewChapterMedia.com. He was a 12-year veteran of the U.S. Tennis Association’s marketing and communications division where he worked as the press officer for 22 U.S. Davis Cup ties, three Olympic tennis teams and was an integral part of USTA media services team for 14 US Opens. He is the author of the book ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY (http://www.tennishistorybook.com/).

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