Blessed with an amazing serve and double handed off both flanks, Gambill pretty much beat anyone who was anyone during his best years on the tour, climbing to a peak ranking of 14th in June 2001, winning three ATP tour titles and reaching the final of Miami Masters. Had he not suffered from chronic shin problems followed by a debilitating shoulder injury, the very least he would have achieved would have been many more winners trophies and a top-ten ranking.
Born in 1977 in Spokane, Washington, Gambill began playing tennis in 1982 at the age of five at the North Park Racket Club. He emerged when the superstars of the 1980s and 1990s were very much at the top of their game. 1998 saw Gambill have his first full season on the ATP tour, and it turned out to be his breakout year. Performing exceptionally well in tournament after tournament – especially for a relative rookie – he finished the year inside the world’s top-50.
More success followed in early 1999 where he had a sensational run in Scottsdale, gunning down Sampras, Agassi and Lleyton Hewitt to win his first ATP title. He shocked seventh seed Lleyton Hewitt in the first round of Wimbledon, and proceed to reach the quarterfinals, defeating Thomas Enqvist before going down in four sets to eventual winner Pete Sampras. He followed that success by reaching the final in Los Angeles where he lost to Michael Chang, and finished the season inside the world´s top-40.
2001 would prove to be Gambill´s best ever season, and he followed up a semi-final appearance in San Jose by winning at Delray Beach, a victory that saw him crack the ATP top-20 for the first time. He put together a string of great performances to reach the final of the Miami Masters, and after reaching the quarters at Queens his ranking peaked at its all-time high of 14 in the world.
2002 was another solid season for Gambill, including a final in Los Angeles and a round of 16 showing at the US Open. He began the 2003 season spectacularly, defeating David Ferrer, Roger Federer and Mikhail Youzhny on the way to reaching the final in Doha. He then won for a second time in three years at Delray Beach, defeating a rising Mardy Fish in the final. It would be his last ATP title.
Gambill would play on for several seasons more, increasingly hampered by injuries which ultimately forced him to turn his back on the ATP tour and focus more on World Team Tennis in which he played regularly for the Boston Lobsters. Post pro tennis he has coached Coco Vanderweghe and also played on the Champions Tour.
Jan Michael Gambill’s lasting legacy in professional tennis is that he defeated eight men who reached number one in the world.