Gilmelstob meets Chang for final place

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Potential is a word that's been attached to Justin Gimelstob for a few years now. Especially after he'd knock out big names like Andre Agassi and Patrick Rafter.

Potential is a word that's been attached to Justin Gimelstob for a few years now. Especially after he'd knock out big names like Andre Agassi and Patrick Rafter.

But injuries or immaturity always seem to bog down his progress.

"I'll start reaching my potential when I start bringing in mental and physical maturity," he said. "At times, I've had one and not the other."

He'll need both in Saturday's semifinal against fourth-seeded Michael Chang at the Mercedes-Benz Cup. No. 6 Jan-Michael Gambill and No. 8 Arnaud Clement of France meet in the other semi.

Gimelstob, who upset No. 2 Mark Philippoussis in three sets on Thursday night, was leading 3-0 in the first set Friday when Paul Goldstein retired from their quarterfinal with tendinitis in his left foot.

So there was no need for Gimelstob to refer to the message he'd scribbled in blue ink on his left hand. It read, "For the love of the game."

"A lot of times I get so obsessed by winning or the score or a certain way of doing things," he said. "For me to be great, I have to distance myself from the normal thought processes, things I can't control, whether it be the score or my opponent.

"A lot of times you get consumed by the rankings, the money," he said. "A lot of times you can see the errors you make, but you can't distance yourself from doing it."

Chang made enough errors to trail 3-5 and be down two set points in the tiebreaker before beating fifth-seeded Wayne Ferreira 6-3, 7-6 (7).

Chang has yet to lose to Ferreira in seven career meetings and hasn't dropped a set in three matches here.

Clement defeated countryman Lionel Roux 6-3, 6-2, while Gambill beat Australian Jason Stoltenberg 6-1, 3-6, 6-1.

Stoltenberg double-faulted at 3-1 to give Gambill the only break of the third set.

"He played an ugly point. That second serve wasn't close to making it over the net," Gambill said. "I was putting extra pressure on my returns. He knew he had to play some pretty good serves."

Chang is much improved from a year ago when he was in tennis' equivalent of the minor leagues, playing a Challenger event with others whose rankings aren't high enough to get into the main draw of ATP Tour events.

For the first time in 11 years, Chang failed to win at least one title in 1999 and finished the year ranked 50th in the world - shocking results for the former French Open champion who has won 33 career titles and more than dlrs 18 million in prize money.

"I reached a point of frustration. I definitely reached a point of brokenness," he said. "Not really understanding why things were happening the way they were."

Chang, 28, changed his training and focused on bulking up his 5-foot-9 (1.75-meter), 160-pound ( 72-kilogram) body in the belief that it would help him overpower opponents. The result was more muscle but a lack of flexibility and footspeed, which killed his renowned ability to get to every ball.

"I got a little slower," he said.

Working with his brother, Carl, Chang cut back on the weights and started sprint work to regain his speed. So far this year, he's made the quarterfinals of seven tournaments and lost in the final of another.

"I almost feel like I've started my career over. I definitely feel I'm moving better out there," he said. "If I'm able to get to the ball and hit what I want to hit, I'm going to be a better player. I've gone back to basics and given up on trying to overpower guys to the extent I wanted to."

Results from the $375,000 Mercedes-Benz Cup ATP Tour hard-court tournament:

Singles - Quarterfinals

Arnaud Clement (8), France, def. Lionel Roux, France, 6-3, 6-2. Justin Gimelstob, United States, def. Paul Goldstein, United States, 3-0, retired. Michael Chang (4), United States, def. Wayne Ferreira (5), South Africa, 6-3, 7-6 (7). Jan-Michael Gambill (6), United States, def. Jason Stoltenberg, Australia, 6-1, 3-6, 6-1.

Doubles - Quarterfinals

Justin Gimelstob and Rick Leach (1), United States, def. Marcos Ondruska, South Africa, and Peter Tramacchi, Australia, 6-4, 7-6 (3).