Since turning pro in 1996, JAN-MICHAEL GAMBILL has been one of the hottest players on the tennis scene. The 23-year-old from Colbert, Washington, is still after his first Grand Slam title, and with the way he competes, it’s only a matter of time. As the 2001 season kicks off with the Australian Open, Gambill takes time out to discuss his career.

AW: Which players did you look up to as a child?
JG: My favorite players growing up were John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors. They are part of the reason I’m playing the game today. It’s a huge honor for me to play the Davis Cup under the tutelage of John now. Man, they were fun to watch.

AW: Which events are you looking forward to most this year?
JG: The biggest events for me in 2001 are the Grand Slams, and my favorites are the U.S. Open and Wimbledon.

AW: What’s your favorite court surface?
JG: I actually have two favorite surfaces to play on — grass and hard courts. I grew up playing on hard courts, and my big serve and baseline game evolved from those courts. But I have since developed better volleys to help me play well on grass, which is for me the most fun to play on. I just wish there were more grass events.

AW: Whom would you credit for making you the competitor you are today?
JG: I would have to credit my dad for helping to guide me to be a tough competitor. He has always been there for me and pushed me when I needed it most. But I also have to say that much of it comes from the heart, as it has to in order to be a great athlete.

AW: If you could play against anyone in the world, who would it be?
JG: I would love to play doubles with John McEnroe against Connors and Sampras. Those are the players I look up to the most and try to emulate in some way.