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A Match Made in Flushing

TIMES STAFF WRITER

How does this sound for a second-round match at the U.S. Open? The man from Split and a man almost hit by spit: Goran Ivanisevic of Croatia and his split personalities facing Justin Gimelstob.

On Wednesday, Gimelstob’s adventures on the Grandstand Court overshadowed the Wimbledon champion’s first match at the Open. With his wild hair--think of the Tom Hanks character in “Cast Away"--the excitable Gimelstob cut a curious figure as he defeated Michal Tabara of the Czech Republic, 6-4, 6-3, 4-6, 4-6, 6-2, in 3 hours 22 minutes.

Tabara did some casting away of his own after he lost, spitting toward Gimelstob as he walked to the net. He admitted directing the spit toward Gimelstob, not chair umpire Wayne McKewen. McKewen, of course, was the unfortunate victim of Andre Agassi’s spray of spit at the U.S. Open in 1990.

The matter was under investigation by officials, but Gimelstob was incensed and promised to take it up with Tabara, saying: “If he’s in the locker room right now, you guys want some real fireworks, stick around for about an hour. That’s ridiculous.”

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Tabara was bothered by Gimelstob’s demonstrative behavior and two injury timeouts.

“He can go to Hollywood and he can make some movies,” Tabara said.

Gimelstob, 24, who played for UCLA in the mid-'90s, pulled off his shoes in the interview room and showed reporters his jammed toes.

“That’s the color they’re not supposed to be,” he said. “I can’t tell you how my inner hamstring feels. Those were as legitimate injury timeouts as you can have.”

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Ivanisevic, who has lost four times in the first round of the U.S. Open, had little trouble with wild-card entrant Hugo Armando, serving 25 aces in a 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 first-round victory.

Wednesday Ivanisevic apologized for homophobic remarks he made about a linesman after his Wimbledon victory.

“I don’t want to offend anybody with that,” he said. “I don’t have anything against homosexuals or anybody. I didn’t mean anything bad .... I can apologize to him, but I didn’t mean anything bad.”

Just when he was climbing out of his mess, Ivanisevic took a step back.

“I can say I play like a woman,” he said.

Well ... not the best idea.

“It’s even worse,” he said. “I have to find a word. You know, in English it’s tougher. I’m going to have to find the word and then I have to start saying that word, how I play, ‘Like something.’ We say, ‘Like something’ at the moment, until I find the exact nice word that doesn’t offend anybody.”

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