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Gimelstob's victory a painful expression


WIMBLEDON, England -- Justin Gimelstob was diving for volleys. Then he was firing himself up, and the fans, with the old clenched fist after a big point.

Finally, as his four-set win over Nicolas Massu neared its conclusion yesterday, he was beating on his chest with his racket -- hard enough to turn his skin red over his left breast.

These were no gentle taps. Ninety minutes later, he lifted his shirt at a post-match news conference and the red welts were still there.

"It was Brandon's idea, to help me from getting tight when I'm closing out matches," Gimelstob said, referring to his coach, Brandon Coupe.

But Coupe said, "I told him to beat his legs, not his chest."

Gimelstob -- "The Big Show," as he likes to call himself -- shrugged, as if to say, "Whatever."

Chest. Legs. All that mattered was that this gangly, affable, 6-foot-5, wildly gesticulating madman had reached the third round at Wimbledon with a 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (0) triumph after almost not playing at all.

If he hadn't taken a cortisone shot last week to calm down the pain from three degenerative discs in his back, he might have had trouble getting out of an armchair yesterday.

Gimelstob's rather bizarre method of firing himself up for a fast finish provided the biggest fireworks on an otherwise uneventful third day at the All England Club.

With the temperature over 80 degrees once again, No. 1 seeds Roger Federer and Lindsay Davenport breezed through to the third round along with sudden tournament favorite Kim Clijsters, who put on a prodigious display of serving to crush American Marissa Irvin, 6-1, 6-1.

Clijsters was 28-3 on her serve, including 16-0 in the second set and, for her first two matches, has won 64 of her 76 service points and has not been taken to deuce on her serve.

"This is the best I've felt in a long time," said Clijsters, who is one round removed from a round of 16 blockbuster with Davenport, who knocked her out of the French Open three weeks ago.

"I'm very happy with this win, especially with the way I played and sort of the way I was focusing out there."

There were no significant upsets on Day 3. Federer, a 6-4, 6-4, 6-1 winner over Ivo Minar of the Czech Republic, advanced with No. 3 Lleyton Hewitt, No. 5 Marat Safin, No. 10 Mario Ancic and No. 11 Joachim Johansson.

Eighth-seeded Nikolay Davydenko, a surprise semifinalist in Paris, injured his wrist while leading in the second set and retired to Jonas Bjorkman.

On the women's side, Davenport sailed past 18-year-old Jamea Jackson, 6-0, 6-3, to make the third round with No. 3 Amelie Mauresmo, No. 5 Svetlana Kuznetsova, No. 6 Elena Dementieva, No. 9 Anastasia Myskina, No. 13 Elena Likhovtseva and No. 15 Clijsters.

This is the third time Gimelstob, the 28-year-old former top junior now ranked 123rd, has been trying to fight his way into the top 100, which would relieve him of having to play in the qualifying rounds.

One of his biggest problems has been closing out matches.

"I've worked hard on trying to relax and not be stressed," he said. "But ... it reduces my energy level, so Brandon and I were trying to think of something more pro-active."

Like smacking himself in the legs and chest with his racket.

"OK," Gimelstob said. "I took it to an extreme. But I figure, everything else hurts so much, one more thing won't matter."

Surgery is in his future, but not while he's competing. "It would be the kiss of death," he said. "Surgery would put me out so long I couldn't come back."

He'll have a hard enough time coming back to win in the third round, where Hewitt will be waiting tomorrow.

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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