Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon recaps the Justin Gimelstob case.
Remember Justin Gimelstob?
Yeah, we’re sure you do. Gilmestob, now aged 42, was a former tennis pro from 1996 to 2007 and perhaps the archetype for the lost generation of American men on the ATP World Tour—we’ll have a couple of those zingers throughout, you’ll understand why. He was good but never really good enough to amount to much. Gimelstob, tall and handsome and formerly the best player in the world at 12, 14, 16 and 18 years old before, really, basically washing out of the pros with a 107-172 career record in singles.
He was supposed to be one of the next ones, and did win a number of events in doubles, but the results never lived up to the juniors hype.
Oh well, it happens.
Since he retired, the American has become one of the legitimately most powerful people in the sport, becoming a Tennis Channel commentator and ATP board member. And if we’re worth half a shit, we could finally rid ourselves of the man for good.
You see, last week Gimelstob pleaded no contest to battery stemming from a charge that he assaulted the friend of his ex-wife last Halloween. It’s quite the solution for him, really: with this plea, Gimelstob doesn’t deny that the attack took place, but he also doesn’t admit guilt and gets to avoid any jail time.
Win win, as they say.
Mind you, this incident is different than when he insulted Anna Kournikova in 2008, or when he was sexist as hell also in 2008, or when he tried choking an opponent at a 2017 paddle tournament, or when he made asinine comments about Barack Obama, or even when his ex-wife filed a restraining order against him, nor is it the same as the time he’s alleged to have made a video recording of his ex-wife having sex with another man.
(It’s a case so disturbing that it prompted the following, actual and real headline: New York Times Washes Justin Gimelstob’s Balls, Sees No Issue With Balls-Washer’s Conflict Of Interest. Seriously. It’s from Deadspin because a headline like this could only be from Deadspin, and we absolutely love it.)
So as you can see, Gimelstob? Seemingly the opposite of a very cool dude.
It’s beyond time that we take steps that concretely say that we’ve had enough of this kind of BS in tennis. Judging from the past few days, the time might have come and oddly enough, it seems like it’s a PR-camouflaged-as-feature piece, in the New York Times (!!!!) of all places, that sparked the ongoing wave of outrage.
Inside the NYT feature, Gimelstob has a bunch of pointless quotes supposed to paint him as a changed man and repentent. The money quote is the following.
“I’m not saying that I am perfect or that I shouldn’t have handled that night differently,” Gimelstob said in an interview last month. “I should have. I would give anything to undo it. I’d give every dollar that I have to take that five minutes back. But I didn’t do what he said, and my whole life and my whole career and my relationship with my son should not be ended because of it.”
Do you see what he’s doing above? Gimelstob manages at once to seek empathy by admitting he’s not perfect, to try to minimize the things for which he pleaded no contest and at the same time painting himself as a victim suffering real, actual consequences as a result of everything that’s unfolded.
There’s a joke to make here about how the man has never hit a better drop shot in his entire life, but we’ll leave that to real comedians. Instead, we’ll insist on the fact that as a public person who represents the sport and, especially, Tennis Channel and the ATP everywhere he goes including in his private life, Gimelstob needs to live up to certain standards.
That starts next month when Gimelstob is up for reelection to his seat on the Players Council on the ATP board. There’s hope since this renewed focus on Gimelstob’s case appears to have compelled a number of candidates to throw their figurative hat in the ring for this seat as player rep of the Americas zone when, before, the 42-year-old Gimelstob seemed on his way to running unopposed.
Absolutely committed to running for the position on the @ATP_Tour Board as the Americas representative.Been involved with the ATP since 1981.Time to step up for better prize money, jobs, schedules and leadership.Looking forward to speaking with all the player representatives ??
— Brad Gilbert (@bgtennisnation) April 28, 2019
And for what it’s worth, so do we.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG