Gimelstob is set for surgery; career might be over
By Charles Bricker
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Posted September 14 2006
Justin Gimelstob of Delray Beach, one of the more notable characters in American tennis, was scheduled for back surgery today, and it could mark the end of his 12-year career.
"This time my back was so bad I started losing feeling in my right leg," Gimelstob said earlier Wednesday from his hospital room at Somerset Medical Center in Somerville, N.J., near his parents' home.
"It went out during the quarters of the mixed doubles at the U.S. Open. I completely herniated the L3 disk. They gave me one cortisone shot right away, but Monday I started losing feeling. The nerve is restricted. They're going to take out two disks."
He's consulted three back surgeons and "there is some pessimism and some optimism" that he can once again play professional tennis. But the rehabilitation period is at least four to six months.
Gimelstob, who two years ago at Wimbledon, pumped himself on court by beating his chest with his tennis racket, leaving several red welts, has spoken often of his continuing back problems.
Earlier this year, trying to recuperate from an attack of back pain, he was running on the beach at Santa Monica, Calif., when he had another spasm. "In mid-air ... I felt flat on my face," he said during an interview at the French Open in June. He dragged his body into the ocean and let the cold settle his back down.
Asked about retirement then, he replied: "Sure, it crosses my mind, but not yet. I wouldn't be doing this if I thought it would paralyze me or cause permanent damage. But the doctors say it won't. So I'm not doing this just to be heroic."
He may have to adjust his thinking now. He's done a lot of research on back injuries and tennis. "Henri Leconte is the only one to come back from it," he said.
The operation was to be performed by Dr. James Dwyer, who also performed back surgery on Ivan Lendl.
Amazingly, with his intermittent problems, Gimelstob was having a good year. His ranking is 71, just eight spots from his all-time best, achieved in 1999. He reached the final at the grass court tournament at Newport, R.I., shortly after Wimbledon, and had an upset there of Andy Murray.