| Justin Gimelstob in action against Jonas Bjorkman in Chennai on Wednesday. (PTI)
Chennai: At six-foot-five, Justin Gimelstob is one of the tallest players on the ATP Tour. He used his height and 86kg frame to the optimum Wednesday evening to pack off fourth seed Jonas Bjorkman en route to the last eight of the $400,000 Chennai Open.
The American didn't concede a single game in the opening set but was still kept on court for an hour and 55 minutes. The fighting qualities of the 32-year-old Swede came to the fore before he eventually bowed 0-6, 6-4, 3-6.
Early action on Day 3 saw the exit of another seeded player, No. 8 Kevin Kim. Having been taken the full distance by qualifier Harsh Mankad on Tuesday, the American of Korean descent ran out of answers against Tomas Zib of the Czech Republic. Zib won 6-3, 7-5 to set up a meeting with Gimelstob.
Another Czech booked a quarter-final berth when 2001 champion Michal Tabara knocked out Frenchman Olivier Patience 7-6 (7-4), 6-4. Tabara will next face Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez who saw off Chile's Adrian Garcia 6-3, 6-3.
It was Carlos Moya who was the first to advance to the quarter finals, that too without hitting a ball. Swiss Ivo Heuberger, who the top seed was due to have clashed with, conceded the match after hurting his back in a doubles match Tuesday night.
That sport is a great leveller was once again proved in the first match on centre court Wednesday. Bjorkman, having blanked Karan Rastogi 6-0 in the second set of their Round I match, was at the receiving end of similar humiliation barely 24 hours later.
By his own admission a perennially slow starter, Bjorkman was caught napping by an opponent determined to put an indifferent year behind him. Solid from the backcourt with the backhand being his standout shot, Gimelstob looked equally at ease at the net. For a big man, Gimelstob ' who will be 28 in three weeks ' bent well and volleyed flawlessly.
The American, not the hardest hitter of the tennis ball, showed some delectable touches too as he toyed with Bjorkman for a set and a half. He was making a loud statement with his game ' that his low ranking of 155 is only because he missed the first half of 2004 after undergoing foot surgery.
Two of the service breaks he achieved in the first set were courtesy Bjorkman, the Swede throwing up double-faults and netting balls tamely. The third break was well earned by Gimelstob, three screaming service returns bamboozling Bjorkman.
In the second set, Gimelstob went 4-2 up after breaking Bjorkman with two great points. He first unleashed a sizzling backhand pass and then won a breathtaking net-exchange.
At 4-2, on course for a straight-set verdict, Gimelstob faltered on serve for the first time in game 8. Upset with a line call ' there were quite a few faulty ones against both players ' the American dropped serve as he drove a backhand long.
This was the opening Bjorkman was looking for and he pressed the accelerator button. Setting up set-point in game 10 with a stretched forehand volley into an open court, the Swede forced a decider as Gimelstob succumbed to the sustained pressure.
To his credit, Gimelstob didn't let the late second-set blues affect his focus in the decider. He fought off a break-point in game 2 but otherwise remained solid. Bjorkman hung on determinedly, too, but he was the first to blink. Gimelstob, serving at 4-3, survived a couple of break-back points before making it 5-3.
Bjorkman ended his own agony, surrendering serve (for the sixth time) at love and the match.
Gimelstob, who works for cancer patients back home, said he would donate $2,000 for the tsunami victims.