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Unheralded Gimelstob one of only three American men alive in tourney



Published: Thu, June 23, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



WIMBLEDON, England (AP) -- Justin Gimelstob keeps falling into what he calls tennis "oblivion," losing more than he wins, dealing with injuries, then doing whatever it takes to get back on the scene, whether it's crisscrossing the globe for minor events to raise his ranking or taking a dangerous number of painkilling injections.

A week after quitting during a qualifying match because of a bad back, then getting into the main draw when someone pulled out, Gimelstob knocked off Olympic gold medalist Nicolas Massu 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (0) at Wimbledon Wednesday to set up a third-round match against 2002 champion Lleyton Hewitt.

"He plays with a lot of passion out there," Hewitt said. "He's a guy that's always going to leave everything out on the court."

Nine U.S. men entered the tournament, and after three days, just a trio is left -- with the 123rd-ranked Gimelstob the unlikeliest. Taylor Dent, seeded 24th, beat countryman Kevin Kim 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 Wednesday to reach the third round, while No. 2 Andy Roddick faces Daniele Bracciali of Italy in a second-round match today.

Turned pro in 1996

Since turning pro in 1996 after winning the NCAA doubles title in his lone season at UCLA, Gimelstob has a .394 winning percentage, zero tour singles titles (but 12 in doubles) and zero trips past the third round at a Grand Slam. He's had a litany of physical problems, including a broken foot that sidelined him for seven months in 2003-04, dropping his ranking below 200.

"It's a struggle," the 28-year-old native of Livingston, N.J., said. "You fight your way all the way back. You really find out how much you want it."

No. 29 Massu was one of three seeded men who lost. No. 22 Dominik Hrbaty was beaten by 18-year-old Gael Monfils, who won three junior Slams in 2004, and No. 8 Nikolay Davydenko, a French Open semifinalist, retired with a right wrist injury.

Hewitt beat Jan Hernych 6-2, 7-5, 3-6, 6-3, Roger Federer extended his Wimbledon winning streak to 16 matches with a straight-set victory over Ivo Minar, and two-time major winner Marat Safin got past 2003 Wimbledon runner-up Mark Philippoussis 7-6 (4), 7-6 (4), 6-4 in a match interrupted when the Centre Court net suddenly collapsed.

Top women seeds advance

No seeded women lost, with No. 1 Lindsay Davenport, No. 3 Amelie Mauresmo and No. 15 Kim Clijsters advancing in straight sets.

Three top Russians struggled, though: U.S. Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova beat Sania Mirza 6-4, 6-7 (4), 6-4 despite getting broken six times and committing 30 unforced errors; 2004 French Open champion Anastasia Myskina needed 13 set points to close out the opener in her victory over Aiko Nakamura, and two-time Slam finalist Elena Dementieva double-faulted 17 times but defeated Sabine Klaschka 2-6, 6-3, 8-6.

A fourth Russian, No. 30 Dinara Safina, eliminated Barbora Strycova 6-2, 6-2 and will face Davenport. It's the first trip to Wimbledon's third round for Safina, the younger sister of Safin.

Bothered by bad back

Gimelstob's back bothered him for months, and he withdrew after one game of his third qualifying match. But he got into Wimbledon anyway as a "lucky loser," the designation for someone ranked higher than others eliminated in qualifying.

So he got his third cortisone shot of the year, and 13th of his career, and it apparently worked. Gimelstob ended the third-set tie-breaker with Massu with a diving volley.

When he smacked a forehand volley to end the match, Gimelstob bent his knees, curled his back slightly, pumped his fists and screamed as though he had won the title.




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