By James A. Crabtree
“Modern tennis is sorely lacking in character.”
Snot nosed rich kid Ernest Gulbis raised a debate recently at Roland Garros.
“I respect Roger, Rafa, Novak and Murray, but, for me, all four players are boring. Their interviews are boring. Honestly, they are boring.” Gulbis said after his second round loss to Gael Monfils that Federer was the biggest perpetrator.
“I often go on YouTube to watch interviews. I quickly stopped watching tennis interviews. It’s a joke,” said the Latvian.
“It was Federer who started this trend. He has a superb image as a perfect Swiss gentleman. I repeat that, I respect Federer, but I don’t like the way that young players try to imitate him.”
In truth, Ernie does have a point, but only sort of. This debate has a few underlying factors that need to be addressed.
Now, the question of boring is really only being brought up because the same players are being asked the same questions time and time again. And why, Ernie, are they being asked the same questions? Because Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray have been winning all the time! How many differing responses can they come up with from the same journalists asking the same questions at tournament after tournament?
The same four players winning consistently is all becoming as predictable as a Vin Diesel movie, and as we know he has been using the same script on different titles for roughly a decade. Now we can’t fault the stars of the game for their monopoly across different tournaments. Perhaps the bigger crime is that of the underachievers, and that is a huge number of players below the top four.
Over the years we have been waiting on the likes of Ferrer, Berdych, Tsonga, Gasquet, Tipsarevic, Raonic, Isner, Baghdatis, Janowicz and dare I say Gulbis to not only provide us with a surprise win, but a surprise championship. Someone to come in and really stir things up.
Surprisingly the monopoly of the slams is very even across the men and women’s tour. Since 2003 the men can boast ten different slam winners. The women meanwhile can only boast fourteen.
However since 2008 and across twenty-one slams the men can claim only five winners while the women can boast eleven.
If we compare this with the past usually a no name or unlikely could sneak a slam. Gustavo Kuerten won the French in 1997 ranked 66th. Mark Edmondson won the 1976 Australian ranked 212th, Goran Ivanišević won the 1999 Wimbledon title ranked 125th. Richard Krajicek sneaked a Wimbledon win between the Sampras dominance as the 17th seed. Thomas Johansson managed to take the 2002 Australian title as the 16th seed. These days a shock grand slam triumph would be Juan Martin del Potro at the 2009 U.S. Open seeded sixth.
Gulbis may claim that the game lacks characters. What he has failed to notice is that the games most prominent representatives happen to come off as gentleman, whether they sincerely are or not. Not many sports can claim that. In truth when we think of the most major sports a plethora of reprobates line the tabloid pages for all the wrongs reasons.
Something, for now, tennis gladly doesn’t have.
Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.
By Romi Cvitkovic
What comes to mind when you hear the name Ernests Gulbis?
Natural talent with a massive serve and forehand? Hot-headed and tempered? Countless racquet smashes and use of profanity during match play? Whatever your answer, one thing is for certain: Gulbis is endlessly entertaining.
Along with some of his more impressive quotes from the past here and here, below is a sampling of Gulbis’ best and most wackiest moments from this past week at Delray Beach — sprinkled with some quotes from his exclusive interview with TenniShorts.
The champion of racquet smashes
In his second round win over Sam Querrey, Gulbis changed racquets at least a dozen times for various reasons — and among them was one of his enraged racquet smashes early in the third. He then went down 0-4 before climbing out to take it 7-6(4) in the third.
Did he just diss … Roger Federer?
After losing his cool in the third set versus Querrey, Gulbis commented on his frustration about being unable to maintain his early advantage, as well as pique at some line calls.
“You like (the outbursts), everybody likes it. I think tennis has lost a little fire. Which interesting characters do we have nowadays? Everybody is trying to be like Roger (Federer). Look back 20 years. They gave interesting interviews, they gave a show on the court. It was fire. I’m not scared to show my emotions.”
Talking trash about the top 100
“I was really getting pissed to see who’s in the top 100. There are some guys who I don’t know who they are. Some guys, I’m sorry, with respect — they can’t play tennis.”
“I don’t know how they got into the top 100. It’s tough, but I think I’m much better than them and I just want to prove to myself by the rankings, also. It’s a motivation.”
“I dropped out of the top 100 which I always said it’s not possible. I proved to everybody that it is possible (laughs). I watch the rankings … believe that if i play my best game I believe I can still make it into the top 10. I don’t know when it’s going to be — this year or next year — but I’ve set my goals.”
An f-bomb followed by some more choice words
After a bad miss during his match against Querrey, Gulbis dropped an f-bomb and was rewarded with a point penalty by the chair umpire. Recognizing his own inadequacies as well the chair umpire’s, Gulbis barked back a few choice words as he walked away from the umpire’s chair.
“You’re shitty at your job. I’m shitty at my job.”
When you can’t perform, just blame your head
In his on-court interview after his win over Querrey, Gulbis admitted that his racquet was fine (despite the smashes and throws) and that it was all mental.
“The racquets and strings were perfect. It was issues with me and my head … I was really pissed off that I couldn’t close the second set. I lost my concentration.”
On not being polite to everybody
Always a raw personality in tennis, he commented on whether he would like more players to have his fiery and honest attitude.
“I’m good alone. Thank you (laughs). I feel good alone. I just (say) what’s on my mind — not really paying attention to being maybe polite to everybody. I just say what I think. If I think that I’m better than (you), then I say it. If I think I’m worse than (you), I say it also. I don’t think think it’s much to do with interesting personalities, just being who you are. And that’s what I believe in.”
He doesn’t care what you say but won’t judge you either
Gulbis has always been a popular topic among fans and media for his cycles of intereste for tennis followed by disinterest. So what does he think about all the things people say about him being an underacheiver?
“I don’t care what people say because I never judge nobody in my life. I never was in anybody’s shoes, (and others have) never (been) in my shoes. They don’t know how I practice, how I don’t practice — I always practice hard … Just that the things outside of the court sometimes I tend to screw up. Now, I’m not doing that anymore. Now, it’s good from both sides: I’m practicing still hard and I’m doing better off court.”
“So, about talent, it’s all relative. Who cares about talent if there’s no hard work? What are you going to do with your underachievers? I don’t want to be one of them.”
After 8 years on Tour, Gulbis finally “really wants to do this”
Admitting to his party-boy ways on more than one occassion, Gulbis has recently stated he is recommitted to tennis with his increased dedication to practicing and fitness work.
“Before, I didn’t understand the game, I didn’t understand why I’m doing this honestly. I didn’t have any particular goals. And now since the end of last year, I’ve set certain goals for myself about what I want to prove.”
“This is the first year I really want to do this. I’m starting to enjoy tennis much more … I had a couple of good wins and enjoyed it. Then I went on the wrong path and was doing wrong stuff for my game.”
“Now, I want to play maybe five more years and do the best I can.”
And in case you’re not familiar with Gulbis’ loopy windup forehand, check it out below. It’s been a bit re-mastered since his 2010 days with his left hand taking on a life of it’s own apparently.
ROTTERDAM (Feb. 12, 2013) — Last year’s finalist Juan Martin del Potro was among the winners on Tuesday at the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam. The Argentine dispatched of Frenchman Gael Monfils in 71 minutes, never having really been tested in his 6-3, 6-4 win.
Del Potro will next take on qualifier Ernests Gulbis who handed Robin Haase his fourth straight first round defeat in Rotterdam, winning 6-2, 6-1 in only 50 minutes.
During his on-court interview Gulbis apologized to the audience for defeating the country’s highest-ranked player: “Sorry Holland. Too bad for the spectators that I defeated a Dutchman.”
In doubles’ action, the team of Marcos Baghdatis and Grigor Dimitrov lost to last week’s Zagreb titlists Julian Knowle and Filip Polasek, 7-6(4), 6-1, while the French tandem of Julien Benneteau and Richard Gasquet defeated the tournament No. 2 seed Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi and Jean-Julien Rojer.
Other singles players through to the first round include wildcard Thiemo DeBakker (when Mikhail Youzhny retired), Julien Benneteau, and Jarkko Nieminen.
(Gallery by Tennis Grandstand photographer Rick Gleijm.)
It was a cool 77 degrees this summer afternoon at the LA Tennis Center at UCLA campus on Thursday, July 29th with a slew of 2nd round matchups on the schedule promising some good fighting and formidable challenges for top seeds. I reached the Grandstand for the first singles match between Mr. Beautiful, Feliciano Lopez taking on the Israeli Dudi Sela. Sela contested the first set with vigor taking it to a tiebreak, succumbing to Lopez 6-7 amidst a rancorous contingent of Israeli supporters in the crowd. Lopez, with his Spanish swagger of someone who has just created the Earth, looked out at spectators with that look of you-should-feel-privileged-to-be-in-the-same-hemisphere-as-me, was unfazed by the loud chants of Sela supporters going on to take the match in straight sets.
The next match pitted Latvian train wreck Ernest Gulbis against up and comer, Mr. I almost beat Federer at Wimbledon 1st round: Alejandro Falla. Gulbis is as much as an enigma as anyone on tour. He has a boat load of talent, a ripping, aggressive game; one of the best first serve and forehand one two punches around, and the captain doing all the steering is running around deck stumbling drunk, making choices that would make a Tennis mom wince. I just don’t understand it. Gulbis wins the first set comfortably, having never had his serve broken, and the first point of the second set he misses a forehand into the net, and the “other” Gulbis arises, turmoil legible in his stride, head sunken low, and constant looks to his coach’s box of dismay and dejection. I was seated next to a Latvian girl who was cheering Gulbis on in his language I assumed, and I couldn’t resist asking her, after Gulbis threw his racquet, (3 times total in the match) why he was so mad? She sheepishly replied, in a strong accent, “We all have temper from that part of the world.” Well, that temper led to a downward spiral that allowed Falla to relax and go for his shots, resulting in a plethora of mismanaged drop shots by Ernest who eventually fell to Falla in three sets. In the press conference afterward Gulbis began to look more like a young Cassius Clay than a Latvian up and comer. He was still fuming from the loss obviously, and maybe that had a lot to do with it, but hold back he did not. Questions parroted at him about his decision making and he snorted back with gusto. “It was a not a good match. I played terrible. I was really tired. I haven’t played for two months so I was not ready to win. If you don’t fish for two months, you going to catch fish?” The crowd seemed to bother Gulbis, especially in the third set tiebreaker, and he was quick to comment on the effect. “It bothers me. I can hear everything. When they boo me for throwing my racquet it is ridiculous. I am a professional. This is my job. I don’t go to your job and scream at you do I?” A very telling comment resonated with my observation of Gulbis and my overall assessment of his attitude. I always thought to myself, “This guy just hates to be out there. He does not look like he enjoys any bit of it, even when he wins.” My thoughts were confirmed when a reporter asked him if he had been enjoying his stay in Los Angeles. “There is no fun in tournament time, “ Gulbis said. “You play, you practice, you go hotel, eat, and then sleep. That is it.” I almost wanted to ask him where the invisible gun was that was pointed at your head?
The next match scheduled was a semi-injured James Blake, who has made it to the finals here before, taking on the stoic German Benjamin Becker. Blake has been a ghost on tour the last couple of years, the age wear showing more and more, and since 2008 watched his ranking drop out of the top 100. He had more to prove here than anyone. I actually picked Becker to take it in straight sets, but Blake didn’t read the script. As a matter of fact he burned it and wrote a whole new movie. With Celtic Superstar Kevin
Garnett watching (a friend of Blake’s), ‘All or Nothing’ James exhibited the hustle and fight of old, willing himself to victory, hitting his marks and paving his way to the Quarters with a straight set victory: 7-5, 7-6. In the press conference afterwards James said he felt better than ever. All of us press media awaited his arrival (he was twenty minutes late), and in he walked with a large bag of ice taped to his right knee. The first question was how the knee felt? James smiled and said, “On a pain scale of 1-10, it’s a one. It’s feeling better and better.” We shall see how it feels tomorrow, when he faces a confident Lopez aiming to make his deepest run.
The night match starred number four in the world, British hopeful, Andy Murray taking on American Tim Smyczek. The first set looked automatic for Murray. He looked like a potential grand slam winner, gliding across the court with ease, making all the right decisions, outwitting Smyczek, rotating between power shots and finesse, letting the tricks out of the bag at the perfect moment. Murray took the first set 6-1, and the energy of the crowd hushed and lulled. You could almost feel people planning their morning, drifting off from center court, texting and blackberrying, ready for an early departure. But Smyczek had other plans. He wasn’t going quietly into the night. He didn’t read the script either, and with brilliant movement and shot making took the second set 6-4, and the Los Angeles night crowd forgot about tomorrow and drifted back to center court with eagerness. This was a match again. Andy had never played this tournament before and maybe playing an American on foreign territory was getting to the Brit. I don’t think so. Murray, in his usual fashion, bounced back, employing all the maneuvering that got him to two grand slam finals, and put all the eagerness to bed with a comfortable 6-2 third set win, sending him to the Los Angeles night with a quarterfinal birth, where he will face Alejandro Falla.
The Farmers Classic LA Open starts Monday July 26, one of the many US Open Series hard court tournaments lined up, touted as a ‘tune up’ event, one of many, preceding the Big Show at the end of the month in New York. Yours truly, the ubiquitous hooligan/tennis junkie/prominent writer for the ages (I’ll let you decide which one of those is not a cold hard fact) will be in attendance giving you the low down on every quirk, forehand, sigh, up the T ace, blistering hallway gossip, who’s who and who’s what, who’s doing this and who’s doing that, and a whole lot more…
The tournament boasts some hot talent attending with a couple of top ten players and a few rising to the occasion. British upstart Andy Murray, the no. 1 seed, and hungry as ever, will be playing the long standing event for the first time. Murray reached two slam finals losing both times to Roger Federer and seems ready to hoist a trophy on Super Sunday. Entering the LA Open confirms his will and desire to be at utmost preparedom for the pressure of getting there. But we all know getting there is only half the feat. Murray may face a tough first round opener if Russian Schizo Teymuraz Gabashvili wins his first match. The Russian may look like a typical plebian tennis player, making his way through some lower tier events into the second week, but lately has put together a potent all around game with gusto showing good runs at recent Grand Slams. Joining Murray in the top half of the draw is Ernest Gulbis, the eccentric Latvian, who looks like a grassy knoll hippie at times, but has put together an impressive resume of victims including Roger Federer this past clay court season in Rome.
The American contigent will be represented well with Sam Querry who has won the event prior, posing as the second seed, and Mardy Fish, who looks more like a top ten player lately than even Andy Roddick, who handed Roddick a straight sets defeat this past week in Alanta in the semis. James Blake enters as an all time low 14 seed who may be able to muster some momentum, but being placed on Murray’s side of the draw, less than likely. Some other notables include the most inconsistent tennis player in history, much to the chagrin of myself and others, Marcos Baghdatis, who has garnererd great results in the past on hard courts; Mr. Beautiful: Feliciano Lopez, and Argentinian high flyer Horacio Zeballos, who has been gaining some momentum as being the next big thing out of that land of tennis gold, which has produced the likes of the ever under achieving David Nalbandian, and 2009 US Open winner Juan Martin Del Potro, who is still ailing from a wrist injury. Stay tuned everybody for it may be a rockstar gala event as only LA can conjure, and with yours truly carousing the aisles in the thick of it all, stands not to dissapoint.
It’s been a fascinating first four days in Cincinnati. Losing Andy Roddick to an injury was a big disappointment. Tomas Berdych continues to be the biggest under-achiever for me, considering all the talent and weapons he has. I have huge respect for Carlos Moya for his quality of tennis he has displayed has been outstanding. I thought Igor Andreev has been playing great lately, so for Carlos to finish off Nikolay Davydenko and then later in day beat Igor is a massive result. You can’t believe how tough the conditions are here – ie the heat and humidity – and Carlos is 31 now!
Ernest Gulbis is a star in the making. Remember, he’s only 19 and if gets a little better between the ears, he’s gonna mix it regularly with the big boys! He’s got some serious guts when the chips are down – especially on his serve! His match Friday with Novak Djokovic should be a cracker!
Then, of course, the big news of the week – Roger Federer going down to Ivo Karlovic. Before Thursday’s match, Fed had won nine of their 10 previous tie-breakers, which i think is astounding, so sooner or later something had to give. I had a chat with Ivo a little while after the match, and he felt he’s been overdue for a while now, so considering all that has gone on the past seven months with Federer, perhaps this result is not as big a deal as everyone thinks?
That means the door is ajar for Rafael Nadal to clinch the top spot this week. He’s gotta win though – and he will. What he’s done over the past four months is unbelievable, and to play second fiddle to Federer for so long, has gotta be mentally taxing. Well obviously not! He will sweat blood this week to get the job done, and some might come close to beating him, Djokovic and Murray particularly, but I don’t think anyone will stand in his way. How ironic or appropriate would it be if he lost to Moya in the final…or beat his friend/mentor to sit atop the tennis world!
Enjoy the weekend, I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to it.