Gambill throws temper tantrum in press conference
By Sandra Harwitt
Camerawork USA, Inc.
Word from the Mercedes-Benz Cup in Los Angeles is that Jan-Michael Gambill threw a temper tantrum at a well-known L.A. Times columnist, taking exception to a few sentences she wrote about him in a Saturday column that was all about Andy Roddick.
Quickly checking into the situation, tennisreporters.net surfed the net to read Diane Pucin's column and see what all the fuss was about.
The comments that sent Gambill on a rampage, first claiming that he wouldn't do a post-match interview after he upset Roddick 7-5, 6-3 in the semifinals, and then saying he wouldn't accept questions from the journalist who wrote the column, were as follows: "In today's semifinals, Roddick will meet Jan-Michael Gambill, a handsome blond with a sparkling smile, who had the Roddick tag a couple of years ago. Gambill was going to be the next Sampras/Agassi. Now Gambill is ranked No. 53. It is where he belongs, where his talent has taken him."
Gambill, reportedly red-faced in anger, then attacked Pucin during the press conference, calling her a "witch," claiming that she was stating that his career was done, kaput, finished, and then suggested that, "Maybe your career is over too, woman."
Clearly, Gambill can read, but we have to wonder about his reading comprehension skills.
Nowhere in those sentences did it say that Gambill was washed up in the business of world-class tennis professional. It just intimated what to date seems to be true – he's not going to be the knight in shining armor that American tennis had hoped. This is not Gambill's fault; he did not ask the tennis establishment to anoint him an heir apparent when he showed a few good results early on in his career and he certainly didn't need to deal with that kind of pressure.
MOVED HIMSELF UP TO NO. 3
During his tirade, Gambill managed to, wittingly or unwittingly, fudge the facts in his own favor. "My talent took me to No. 3 in the world," said Gambill, during the press conference. Not true, according to the official source:the ATP computer.
The ATP Entry System, otherwise known from here to yonder as the rankings, shows that the Washington State native has never even cracked the Top 10. So far, the 25-year-old's career high ranking has been No. 14.
Where Gambill apparently got confused, although he's certainly not the only one to get caught up in all the different computer options of judging players, was that he was briefly No. 3 in the ATP Champions Race in March 2001. The Champions Race is a system that rates players for their performance for a particular year in question and paves a road to the year-end Tennis Masters Cup. In the end, Gambill's status in the Champions Race did not hold, somewhat due to injuries putting him on the sidelines for nine weeks, and he did not make the grade for the Tennis Masters Cup.
Following the outburst, Pucin wrote her Sunday column on Gambill and handled the situation in a fair and professional manner.
She carefully pointed out the facts that prove that his No. 53 ranking is credible to the accomplishments Gambill has thus far added to his resume in his years on tour.
Here are just a couple of the details of Jan-Mike's career:
• In 35 Grand Slam tournaments played, Jan-Mike has put together a 15-20 win-loss record and has only ventured beyond the third round once at a Grand Slam in his career, making the quarterfinals at Wimbledon in 2000.
• He's only won two tournament titles, at '99 Scottsdale and '01 Delray. It is true that the Scottsdale event often boasts the participation of guys name Sampras and Agassi – not surprising about Sampras since his brother, Gus, is the tournament director. And he did have a magnificent run there, beating Sampras in the second round, watching Agassi retire against him in the semifinals and then taking out Lleyton Hewitt, the eventual world No. 1, in the final. But the Delray tournament is a completely different story. While a guy like Patrick Rafter used to be loyal to the event and was one of the only really big names to venture to the South Florida event, most of the competitors there are exactly what Gambill is, a solid No. 53 or so in the world. Disbelievers out there take a look at the Delray winner's circle since it moved to hard courts three years ago – Davide Sanguinetti in 2002, Gambill in 2001 and Stefan Koubek in 2000.
• Gambill's 6-2, 6-4 loss in the LA final on Sunday to defending champion Andre Agassi brings to the forefront that while Gambill has had some impressive wins here and there in his career, on a consistent basis he's been unable to keep his play at an optimum level. Upsetting Roddick on Saturday, supposedly saying that the remarks in the L.A. Times motivated him to win that semifinal, he couldn't keep the momentum going against a superstar of Agassi's quality. In fact, in 10 career outings against Agassi, it's superstar 8 and Gambill 2.
NOT THE PLACE TO PICK A FIGHT
Clearly, Gambill is disappointed by what he's accomplished in tennis so far and not looking at the positive, that he's made a successful career on the international tennis circuit. As Pucin pointed out in her Sunday column about his world ranking, "Not that there's anything to be ashamed of, being ranked the 53rd-best anything in the world." She also added, "And if Gambill can be brought to an angry boil so quickly, maybe he is a young man worth keeping an eye on."
But what Gambill needs to learn is picking a fight with a journalist, especially when your fight seems out-of-line, is usually never a winning situation. The incident made many media outlets, starting with Associated Press reports. And as Janice Carr's piece in the Orange County Register reflected, the copy was not particularly in favor of Gambill. Carr, noting Gambill's mistake regarding his ranking, wrote, "Gambill's anger must have clouded his facts. The highest he ever climbed in the ATP Tour rankings was No. 14 in June 2001. He was once No. 3 for a brief time in the ATP Champions Race."
Gambill is a tennis talent, although that talent might only be to where he stands today on the tour. While it's not wrong for him to hope for more, he needs to mature and understand that he should be thrilled to have made it in an arena where so many fail.