Ernests Gulbis Fans Find Something Lost
Ernests Gulbis made headlines a few days ago when he knocked out world number one, Roger Federer. Unknown to people outside of the close tennis circle, Gulbis was a fresh, new, exciting face. From first glance, it would appear the 21 one year old with remarkable talent and cute boyish good looks would be set for the top ten very shortly. With a knockout of an ailing Federer, surely the Latvian would have the confidence, determination, and ambition to climb the rankings. But Gulbis fans, who have been following him for most of his short professional career, knew better than to expect anything. This is because Gulbis has been a disappointment for the most part of his career, showing off his talent by wasting it with epic chokes, a lack of desire, and bad behaviour. He didn’t win two matches back to back last year until very late and made some strange decisions along the way. He was caught with a prostitute in Stockholm, (it hasn’t been confirmed exactly, but it is taken for granted as fact), and then later forgot to withdraw from a tournament. He was without a coach for much of last year and it seemed as if Gulbis might just hang up his racket at the age of 21.
Still his fans followed him. Ever loyal to the charismatic, good-looking, exciting player, they persisted with watching matches that ended in heart-breaking double faults. 2010 didn’t seem to bring any promise, but Gulbis did make the seemingly obvious move of hiring a coach. He turned out to be Marat Safin’s ex-coach, Hernan Gumy. Suddenly things were looking up. Without getting carried away, Gulbis finally started to cash in on that promise that was much talked about a few years ago. At the end of Febuary Gulbis captured his first ATP title at Delray Beach. He rose back into the top 50 with the win in the final over Ivo Karlovic, not an easy opponent. Gulbis fans began to wake up from their long slumber but with only one eye open. That eye was promptly shut again when Gulbis lost his second round match to Nikolay Davydenko at Indian Wells. This would have been forgivable if Davydenko was not playing with a broken wrist. Gulbis then mysteriously disappeared off the circuit for a month.
It turns out that in his month off Gulbis was practising not partying as suspected. He may have taken a month off and only practised for two weeks, which he called ‘a joke’, but it was still practise. Whether he begrudged it or not, the man formerly allergic to hard work was finally putting in some hours on the tennis court. It seemed to pay off. At the Barcelona Open Gulbis made it to the quarter finals where he fell to Verdasco, eventual finalist. Meanwhile Gulbis fans were watching closely but skeptically, with furrowed eyebrows. They had no idea his biggest success yet was about to come.
Gulbis entered the Rome Masters with an extremely tough draw. If he managed to get past Marcos Baghdatis in the first round he would have to face Federer in the second. We all know what happened, Gulbis beat a lackluster Federer in three sets after almost “shitting his pants” (his words). Gulbis fans had certainly woken up by then and were sitting bolt upright with a mixture of elation and fear across their faces. They had suddenly received an injection of hope which is a dangerous drug when it comes to Ernests Gulbis. He may have beaten Federer, but Gulbis fans knew he was capable of losing to anyone, even Filippo Volandri, his 150th ranked opponent in the third round. He came close to breaking hearts worldwide against the feisty Italian, but in the end Gulbis held on for a close three set victory. Gulbis fans well and truly had hope now, not only had he beaten Federer but he had managed to consolidate on it. There was almost optimism in their faces as he faced and beat his next opponent, Feliciano Lopez, catapulting Gulbis into the semis to face none other than Nadal.
Finally, Gulbis fans have something to cheer for. Not only is 2010 looking like a break through year for Gulbis but he is starting to look like he actually cares about tennis. He was delighted with his win over Lopez, although disgusted with his missed smash on match point. Showing off his refreshing sense of humour in a sea of serious players, Ernests Gulbis asked ‘who’s that’ when an interviewer questioned him about Nadal. Cracking the grin that has disarmed fans worldwide Gulbis appeared happy and relaxed on the tennis court. His fans are happy too, although they are defiantly not relaxed as they prepare to watch their reluctant hero take to the clay courts of Rome to face none other than Nadal tonight. They will be waiting though, ever faithful. This time they even have hope.