Concrete Elbow by Steve Tignor - Whatever Happens
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Whatever Happens 08/11/2010 - 10:44 AM

Eg On Tuesday afternoon the players’ lounge at the Rogers Cup looked pretty much the way it does on any day at any tournament in any city. Endless summer camp remained in session, as a couple dozen players and wives and coaches chatted in small groups and alternated between games of foosball and ping-pong. When Ernests Gulbis, red-skinned after his long bout in the sun with Robin Soderling on center court, walked in on this scene, he (after introducing himself as “Ernests”) immediately motioned that we should do our interview somewhere else. Once we were out in the hall, he looked back and said with a thin grin, “I don’t want people to hear if I’m saying s**t about them.”

I was surprised that Gulbis was in a joking mood. He’d played an outstanding match against Soderling, one that he should by all rights have won. But the Swede had been the more ornery competitor down the stretch, holding off break points in the second set that looked sure to spell his doom, and catching his opponent at the wire in the third as Gulbis grew tired. It felt like a squandered opportunity to re-start his momentum after his time away with a hamstring injury. But now, sitting down to talk, Gulbis seemed moderately pleased. In a way, his body had let him off the hook.

“I was cramping, so I don’t feel too bad about it,” he said, laughing.

“I feel like I’m back on a good track now,” he continued. “I almost beat a Top 10 guy, and I’ll keep playing better each tournament. I’d never been injured once in my life before, so it was hard the last couple of months. But you have to learn to deal with it.”

“You have to learn to deal with everything,” he added, in the liltingly philosophical mutter that's so reminiscent of his friend and spiritual brother Marat Safin.

And it’s true, Gulbis showed off some good tennis in Toronto, reminiscent at times of his breakthrough run on clay this spring. He served huge and overcame nerves to finish his first-rounder, and he was the stronger and more obviously gifted ball-striker against the higher-ranked Soderling. Yesterday I wrote a post about those little moments of perfection you see at a pro tournament. You can add Gulbis’ serve to that list. I’ve never seen anyone hit flat down the middle and slice out wide with exactly the same toss, which he throws ridiculously far behind his head. But it isn’t just a physical skill. Unlike the majority of players, who hit their wide slices with as much pace as they can muster each time, he adds nuance to the stroke, taking a little off the ball, varying the placement, getting a sharper angle, and giving himself time to move over for a forehand. His slice serve is a beautiful and surprising stroke in its own right, something you don't say of a serve all that often. One reason for Gulbis’ popularity, I think, is that he has the spark and mark of genius to his game.

He also has the burden. Against Thomaz Bellucci in the first round, Gulbis became tense with a one-set lead, venting toward his coach, the unflappable Hernan Gumy, as the second set wore on. “I’m just pooshing the ball and it goes and it’s a joke,” he said, somewhat cryptically, after one miss. Gumy, presumably unsure of the exact meaning of that statement, sat stone-faced. Soon after, Gulbis ripped off his sweatband and hit it toward an icebox at the side of the court. But it flew over the box and landed at the feet of two girls in the front row. He shook his head and apologized. But while he could have come unglued against Bellucci, and for a time it appeared he was heading in that direction, he kept it together with an impressively upbeat resolve.

“My coach, he changed everything about me, my game,” Gulbis said of Gumy, whom he describes as a good friend. “My movement, the way I hit, the way I practice and think. Why should he look nervous? What’s to be nervous about? If I look up and he’s nervous, what’s that going to do to me? He’s a guy I like, we just talk about things, it’s easygoing."

He stopped and smiled. "He’s not breaking my balls, you know."

Is Gulbis enjoying the tour more these days than when he felt like “he just wanted to go home” half the time? Yes and no.

“It’s always the same, there are ups and downs. I do what I need to do. The joy comes from winning matches.”

Earlier in the year, after his first title, in Delray, Gulbis had noted how quickly that joy had faded once the match was over. I wondered if that had been true even after his win over Roger Federer in Rome in the spring.

He nodded. “Every match sticks with you,” he said, “but the joy fades. You can’t keep it. You can’t keep nothing in this world. You always have a match or a practice or tournament the next day. That’s the way it is for us. You have to forget it. We’re obligated to forget it.”

The next tournament for Gulbis is in Cincinnati in a few days. A couple of years ago, he said that playing his first Masters event in that city, and staying in the player hotel, a Marriott in the middle of nowhere, had been a slightly underwhelming experience. 

“I like the tournaments in the U.S., they’re well-run,” he says now. “And I like the fans, they love sports. But I come from somewhere else, I don’t understand the mentality in the States. There are too much rules. I get checked in security like 10,000 times, and policemen are always around. I’m more laid-back, I don’t want all these stupid rules.”

“Everything comes from the U.S.,” he continues. “For example, look at smoking. For thousands of years . . . OK, hundreds of years . . . people have loved smoking everywhere. Then someone in the U.S. suddenly decides to fight it, and then it goes to England, and then no one is allowed to smoke anywhere. It’s just so someone can have authority.”

Maybe it's his laid-back, independent-slacker-philosopher streak, his willingness to have an opinion other than "I have to stay focused," that draws people to Gulbis. After his match with Bellucci, he was surrounded by autograph seekers, as well as female fans who wanted to pose for photos with him. “Wait until I tell [so and so],” one of them yelled after her picture was taken next to a statue-like Gulbis. “She’s going to freak!”

I’ll admit to being a Gulbis fan as well. He has a tennis gift, but he also has the gift of relatability. He’s a guy you might know, a guy—unlike, say, Robin Soderling—you might have been. Even though he says he can’t relate to this country, to me Gulbis is the most American of the Eastern European players. Maybe that’s not a huge surprise, since he was born after the Iron Curtain fell and did his tennis training in Germany.

Asked whether his motivation was different form other players, Gulbis said, “We all have the same goal, to be No. 1. Some guys have side goals, like becoming rich or famous. I just want to do whatever I do 100 percent. Whatever happens, happens.”

Those sensible words may explain why we like Gulbis, but they may also explain why he lost a match like Tuesday’s. In the third set, Soderling was more the desperate, more resourceful, more practical player. He didn’t care how he got it done, just that the job got done with whatever funky volley or lunge or get he could manage. Gulbis kept hitting excellent shots, but they didn’t necessarily win him points. You could see in Soderling's strained face and bullet eyes that he wasn’t going to let this one go. Gulbis seemed a little diffident by comparison, too much like a cooler version of the rest of us to overcome the determined striver across the net.

The danger, I suppose, is that not fulfilling his potential—and having to hear about it every day—will make Gulbis more negative as time goes on, the way it did Safin. For the moment, he’s fun to watch, for his serve and forehand, for his comically tortured venting, for the way he looks as if he’s not completely sure he wants to be out there. That's another thing most tennis players can relate to, whether they admit it or not.

Gulbis is not the kind of guy who, like Rafael Nadal, you want to win because the win itself will bring him or you much joy—as Ernests says, you can't keep joy for very long in this world. You want Gulbis to win for another reason: So you can watch him play again, and see what he gets up to. So you can see whatever happens, happen.


Posted by Kate 08/11/2010 at 10:55 AM

Sorry, I don't like Gulbis. He reminds me of that spoiled kid in every school who grabs attention any which way, but isn't really funny or really talented or really nice. Just...loud enough, talented enough, funny enough to get the attention he craves.

And yet, the attention is never enough (people just naturally stop gaping at him after a while) so he goes on to other extremes.

I do not think Gulbis will last. Tennis will not be enough.

Posted by Syd 08/11/2010 at 11:02 AM

Brilliant, Steve. Not to take anything away, but you had a great subject to work with.

Posted by A_gallivant 08/11/2010 at 11:04 AM

Completely agree with Kate, his charm is utterly lost on me. I always hate the assumption that a slacker guy like Gulbis is more like us than say Soderling. Why? What does that even mean? If you mean that Gulbis is like any frat guy out there, then maybe there's something to that and those types certainly have an appeal, until you grow up and realize that they don't have the balls to take their lives or themeselves seriously. I'll take a Soderling over a Gulbis any day of the week.

Posted by Kate 08/11/2010 at 11:14 AM


Far better said.

Posted by Larry 08/11/2010 at 11:17 AM

The criticisms of Gulbis here are pretty severe. He has climbed up the rankings; Gumy is apparently remaking his game. So he thinks a lot of life is a joke? That means he has a philosopher's streak. I see that as a good thing.

His comments about the overwhelming, authoritarian-looking physical security in the US are accurate. I remember flying from Palm Springs, of all places, just after the TSA was started. There were at least 15 TSA agents in the security area, and about three passengers. It's all pretty heavy-handed and ineffective.

Posted by Marcel in Montreal 08/11/2010 at 11:24 AM

Sounds like a man crush to me

Posted by David 08/11/2010 at 11:27 AM

Yeah, Ernests is deff worth writing about...nice job.
What is clacker! charisma?...hmmmmm

Posted by latagaw 08/11/2010 at 11:28 AM

I'm afraid that Gulbis is the male, more philosophical version of Ivanovic. I hope he'll mature soon and realize his potential. And yet, that's probably self-defeating, too, as it can translate to GS trophies when, as he himself declared: 'you can't keep nothing in this world'.

Even just for the perks that come with being a grand slam winner, he sounds like a reluctant champion already. He is rich and famous without even trying. I really hope that such mental 'liability' will translate to a nothing-to-lose attitude. Because Ernests is an engaging fellow.

Posted by spark 08/11/2010 at 11:44 AM

I could understand people's ambivalence toward Ernests. He has this Holden Caulfield quality about him...on the one hand he appears like a spoiled preppy savant, on the other, a virtuous outsider with a vivid way of expressing his discontent. I think that's what makes him interesting.

Posted by pschwarztennis 08/11/2010 at 12:03 PM

Ever have a conversation at a party with someone who's just half-a-turn unusual ? Odd, but refreshing because of his perspective. Saves us from the cliche-driven automatons, I suppose ....

Posted by Kombo 08/11/2010 at 12:09 PM

I was disappointed after Gulbis lost that match. He could've won it. He was serving well enough and hitting his groundies a bit better than Sodes. He's coming back so the cramping is understandable. He just needs that bit of competitive fire to help him dial in more for his matches, I enjoy his game and hope he continues to get deeper into draws and play well.

Posted by Statitician 08/11/2010 at 12:13 PM

Maybe players like Nalbandian, Roddick, Berdych, and Gulbis are fulfilling their potential. Clearly it takes more than great timing, pure ball striking, or excellent technique to garner the type of success we associate with major title winners. Maybe these guys just don't have more, whether it be temperament, patience, or selfishness. Or maybe they do; Federer and to a lesser extent Nadal, have really skewed the reality of tennis. They haven't really allowed other players to shine. Think of the past decade without Fedal. We would probably be talking about another golden age of tennis featuring parity and lots of different multiple major winners.

Posted by tina 08/11/2010 at 12:15 PM

I was pleasantly surprised to see him pull it out against Bellucci, and high hopes against Sod - but I don't mind the frequent frustrations of being a Gulbis fan. If there were no personalities, or if all players were identical, would we bother to watch?

I also find speeches about personal freedom in relation to smoking particularly entertaining when coming from athletes. And I feel for the Europeans when they are faced with American rules...

Posted by Libby 08/11/2010 at 12:22 PM

I can't help but love Gulbis. Thanks for this piece, Steve.

Posted by AB 08/11/2010 at 12:22 PM

Well said @spark.

He's unedited. That could just mean he was poorly brought up. On the other hand, other than his tennis, I don't see what's so noteworthy about his observations. Any late night college bull session is filled with far deeper "philosophical" rambling.

I do think he shows sparks of being a tennis savant. But his casual approach in his movement to the ball can cancel out any enjoyment from the other parts of his game. I don't think his current style will hold up over time. And I'm talking tennis time, 2-3 years, not real time.

I think he's more of a tabula rasa than he seems. People just project on him because he's not the "cliche-driven automaton" (thanks for that pschwartztennis).

Posted by Geellis 08/11/2010 at 01:02 PM

I like Gulbis, but darn if he doesn't make it tough. So much talent, so little will. As a Nadal fanatic, it's difficult to fully embrace Gulbis for he lacks wholly the quality of indomitable will that makes Rafa so alluring. Just like Safin and Nalbandian drove me nuts with the cavalier attitude they had for their talent, so Gulbis seems destined to do the same. Having seen this movie before, however, he's not a player I'm willing to become too vested in. Too much heartache down that road.

Posted by gabos 08/11/2010 at 01:16 PM

Re various comments:
Apparently, "maturity" means thinking tennis is all there is to life. It's interesting that a character who is intelligent, is articulate, has a perspective that encompasses more than "winning is everything," and has a sense of humor, really pisses people off.

Gulbis isn't going around saying "I'm a philosopher," or "pay attention to me;" the fact that people call him philosophical doesn't mean he thinks that of himself. As for "maturing" or "taking himself seriously," keep in mind that the fact that he doesn't have to play for the money means, if anything, he has to be *more* self-motivated-- the drive has to come from something other than financial desperation, from something else inside him. You can have your unpleasant, prickly, monomaniacal Soderlings, if you like; the type populates the U.S. sports landscape, anyway, so more power to you. I like a little variety on occasion.

Funniest of all is that people who are obsessed with watching what is, in essence, an eternal child's game, are going around saying that those who are lucky enough to be playing that child's game full-time should be more *serious.* Somebody has some mixed priorities (and a sense of entitlement), but I'm not sure it's Gulbis.

Posted by Bob G- Hawaii 08/11/2010 at 01:34 PM

Thanks Steve for a good blog entry about a player I consider worth my time and money to watch. Ernie may not show all the dedication some people may want but I'm happy he is willing to be young and attempts to develope as a player. Tennis would be be very boring if all we had were Federer clones. Even as 24/7 admirer of Nadal I accept Rafa is one of a kind and all players must develope in their own ways. Ernie provides the entertainment and excitement I expect at a professional tennis match. Nothing else can be said except, C'mon Ernie!

Posted by Eugene. 08/11/2010 at 01:45 PM

Give the guy a break !
I watched his training session yesterday in scorching heat of +35C.
The whole hour of hell work on everything !

How many of you guys, if had everything provided by your "papa" for three generation ahead, would work that hard ?

Posted by GB 08/11/2010 at 01:45 PM

Nole finally holds for the first time. Has 5 dfs already:(

Posted by darthhelmethead 08/11/2010 at 01:55 PM

I never really liked Gulbis, something about him just rubbed me raw the in the way that makes you root for and against certain players, but this post made him win me over. I like the guy's personality and wit, he reminds me of myself only really talented and rich.

Posted by pov 08/11/2010 at 02:06 PM

"Even though he says he can’t relate to this country, to me Gulbis is the most American of the Eastern European players."

lol. Tignor, you're brilliant even when you don't know it. In one sentence you encapsulate Gulbis' perspective, your perspective and unwittingly give an example of the very mentality that leads to the things that alienate Gulbis (and others.)

Posted by THINK 08/11/2010 at 02:13 PM


Posted by THINK 08/11/2010 at 02:15 PM


Posted by CL/Hold the Foam 08/11/2010 at 02:17 PM


Posted by THINK 08/11/2010 at 02:29 PM


Posted by RobinDAMAN 08/11/2010 at 02:51 PM

Steve, I like Gulbis. But what do you mean by him being someone we might have been, unlike Soderling?

I thought Bodo was the one who wrote the unprofessional anti-Soderling articles, dont tell me you too :(

People LOVE, they LOVE to hate Robin but has he seemed rude or classless at all recently? Was he not charming and gracious in defeat at both French Open Final defeats?

Sorry, I think your a great writer Steve but it is somewhat unprofessional to make these out of nowhere attacks at players. Especially when the attacks are totally undeserved.

Posted by felizjulianidad 08/11/2010 at 02:52 PM

Tignor is a great writer; I too was struck by that phrase (Gulbis being the most American of Eastern European players, not surprising considering he was born after the Iron Wall fell).

For the record, Steve has written with his "American hat" on before - explicitly and overtly. No big deal.

I also don't think people should take offense at such a comment. Can anyone find it in themselves, in all honesty, to refute the idea that America's cultural influence over the rest of the world has been nothing short of extraordinary, given that it single-handedly established the Information Age (which has had a magnifying effect on the influence of countries/institutions with cultural hegemony)? Gulbis wears clothes from American sponsors, watches films produced in Hollywood, and reads his email on an operating system developed by an American company. None of this would've been possible prior to the fall of the Wall, and the subsequent dual Westernization and Americanization of former bloc states. Live with it, guys.

On the other hand, someone in Page 1 was right when he pointed out something about the American mentality that rubs people the wrong way. Americans have this automatic, knee-jerk to make other people more like them, to make them less foreign, to make them less alien. It's endearing when you get to know Americans well enough, but it certainly raises questions about your average American's basic assumptions: it's somehow immoral to let something persist if it's not like us.

Where you guys are wrong is in lambasting Steve for this. He pointed this out in an earlier blog - he remarked on how a local American fan tried to "adopt" Wawrinka by calling him "Stan". America, because of its tradition of decentralizing its institutions, has a distinctly parochial essence to it. Even in a newspaper from cosmopolitan San Francisco, you're likely to find an article about how some fireman helped a grandma who got locked in her bedroom by hopping in through the window after climbing a tree. I think Steve's aware of this. And of course, we see this on a regular basis here at TW - Bodo has a particular habit of doing this.

Peace guys. I don't have high expectations of Gulbis. Too petulant and self-important; he is in that dangerous position of having enough neurons to formulate an opinion, but hasn't spent enough time to develop the facts or rigor that will make such an opinion respectable.

Posted by GulbisFan1 08/11/2010 at 03:21 PM

Go Ernests GULBIS!

He will win Cincy and great article Steve!

Posted by acuvue contact lenses 08/11/2010 at 03:47 PM

Gulbis is certainly an enigma.

He's not successful enough to be compared with Safin (GS winner), yet not predictably unsuccessful with his talents like say, a Gasquet.

So far, he's the sort of guy that's losing matches he really should win over lower ranked opponents yet gives the higher ranked opponents mighty scares.

An interesting fellow!

Posted by NATO 08/11/2010 at 03:48 PM

I think Gulbis & Anna Lapushchenkova have the most beautiful faces on the tour -renessance faces

Posted by Euphemism 08/11/2010 at 04:32 PM

Gumy was equally poker-faced when he was coaching Safin in the waning days of the Russian's career... One of his particular gifts is apparently the ability to listen to his tall, talented, tempermental Eastern European charges mutter and rail without even conceding a twitch of an eyebrow.

Posted by Legoboy 08/11/2010 at 04:37 PM

Don't we all want to come from money, and just be good at something? Since when is being good at a passion, and not having to work as hard as everyone else a bad thing?

I think his comment about "not having his balls broken" is key. He loves the sport...he's good, comparably better than most. But he doesn't want to pretend that there's nothing more than winning the next match in tennis. He sees beyond that.
I wish I that clarity at say 22+ or whatever.

I say good for him.....will I cheer for him always, no....but I'll certainly continue to read about his shinannigans! heh!

Steve, interesting capture, on an interesting creature!
Hope he puts another nail in Fed's coffin.

Posted by linex 08/11/2010 at 04:44 PM

Great Article Steve, the best one coming from Toronto since your arrival ... I enjoy watching Gulbis too, it would be great if he is a little more competitive in this kind of matches like yesterday so we see more of him.

Posted by Ad-out 08/11/2010 at 04:49 PM

Great article about my favorite player. Ernests has such a refreshing outlook on the sport and he is not afraid to speak candidly about it. He's so talented and with Gumy on board I think he has a very promising future. Plus he's adorable. :-)

Shame that his fitness/body let him down against Soderling. He was the better player throughout most of the match.

Posted by Red⁺ = Legacy Solidified 08/11/2010 at 05:08 PM

Earnie is a keeper.

Posted by loreley 08/11/2010 at 05:10 PM

Good to hear that Gulbis puts his loss against Söderling into the right perspective. He looked pretty sad right after the match. So thank you for your report.

I can`t see anything american about Gulbis.

Posted by SSG 08/11/2010 at 05:17 PM

Thanks for this piece, Steve. Love Gulbis. What would tennis be without interesting personalities? He so reminds me of Safin - his soft voice, sense of humor, build, power, serve. Getting Soderling in the second round was a tough break. I don't disagree that he might be a spoiled rich kid but, as someone else said, he's been doing a huge amount of work to get where he is, when he doesn't need the money. And you can see his progress over the past year in constructing points more patiently. I love watching him. And to Robbie Konig and Jason Goodall (who I generally like) -- but who repeatedly disparage his hair as being messy and out of control: Many women including me think it's incredibly sexy. (Can't decide about the beard, though.)

Posted by Jass32 08/11/2010 at 05:42 PM

Gulbis is entering the prime years of his tennis career. I think, for now, he should simply leave his philosophical brain behind at home. After his tennis career is over, he will have all the time in the world for reflections. Not now; not at this moment. This is the moment of taking his tennis career to greater heights; time to achieve breakthroughs. What a shame if Gulbis could not put it together!

Gumy, are you listening? I mean seriously, could you please have Gulbis just eat, sleep and drink tennis for now?

Posted by cami 08/11/2010 at 05:58 PM

I like Ernests. His game and his candid intelligence. He's immature and petulant, but who isn't at 22? *except Rafa :)*.

I think the major thing that's holding him back now is his impatience. It's the impatience of precocious kids who are used to doing everything faster and better than those around. I think his mom said in an interview that as a kid, he learned games very fast, and as soon as he won, he got bored and wanted to do something new.

Thing is, now he's playing this tennis game with the best of the world. And winning is rarely a piece of cake. I once heard Patrick Mouratoglu during on-court coaching telling Aravane Rezai (who was behind in the match and visibly very frustrated): "You must look for the match, you must find the match". These words made me think.

There are days where everything clicks and the match is right there for the taking, but more often, the match eludes you, and you cannot seem to get in it. Ernests doesn't look hard enough for the match when the match is hard to find. He's made progress in this area, for sure. But he has to stick with it until the end. I don't think he's quite there yet. He still needs a little "help" from his opponent to win these close ones, like with Bellucci here or Fed in Rome. But when he doesn't receive much from the opponent, he cannot take it from them, like Rafa does.

Maybe he's frustrated because he didn't expect life on the ATP to be such a hassle and such a grind. Rafa said he goes on court with the belief he can win, but it will be very hard. So when it becomes very difficult, he is not frustrated, because he expected it. He knows winning is impossible without trying hard. So he tries hard, all the time. This modesty and maturity is what Ernests is lacking now. I think he still wants things fast and easy like when he was a kid.

Let's hope that will change. But again, like with Marat, it might never really change.

Posted by Fernando 08/11/2010 at 06:02 PM

I just dont see why this guy needs to be out there killing himself when he is almost guarantee to be one of the top players for the next 5 years starting next year. Just wait another year and you will see this kid out there kicking butt !!! who else ??? He is doing what he wants to do and it is part of the plan...The problem is that many of you guys have never played competitive tennis, especially nowadays...wait another year and you will see Donald Young out there doing the same...just watch...

Posted by Jimbo 08/11/2010 at 06:03 PM

Well said.. I'm amazed people are being so harsh on Ernsts. The kid is obviously working hard and has perspective...... and he plays hard!!!!!
He has got something to say and a sense of humor about himself and the world. I have never heard stories of him mistreating people, etc,,

Posted by Jimbo 08/11/2010 at 06:07 PM


Posted by Corrie 08/11/2010 at 06:13 PM

I quite enjoy watching Gulbis, but I don't see anything particularly interesting, deep, quirky or philosophical in what he says. He just sounds like a not particuarly well educated 21 year old kid. Are we just grasping at straws here because we're desperate to find a new "interesting" player?

Posted by tennisfan 08/11/2010 at 06:20 PM

I love Gulbis! In fact he is my absolute favorite player. People need to stop criticizing him. Its not fair to judge someone if you have not been in their shoes. How can someone call him "spoiled" if they don't know him. I think he seems down to earth, but that just me. I hope he is successful, because it would be a shame if he didn't get rightful recognition for all that talent and great personality.

Posted by David 08/11/2010 at 06:51 PM

he's like the keith richards of tennis! love this kid and all his peculiarities

Posted by highpockets 08/11/2010 at 06:56 PM

I like the way he spells his name;
I like the way he plays his game;
I like the way he shakes his curls;
I like the way he loves the girls.

I'm so mature.

Posted by Sherlock 08/11/2010 at 07:24 PM

Highpockets, lol. :)

Posted by noleisthebest 08/11/2010 at 07:59 PM

Gulbis is a breath of fresh air in the gladiator arena tennis has become. I'd watch him over Nadal ANY DAY!

Posted by kj 08/11/2010 at 08:05 PM

Can we please talk about fed? watching the highlights of his first round match against Chela he seemed to be moving incredibly well ( especially considering his age and motivation) everyhting seemed to be working pretty well. Does anybody else think that Feds service motion has changed slightly?. Or is it just the new BlX making it look different?

Posted by denise 08/11/2010 at 08:17 PM

Roger Federer is a guy I might have been..

Posted by Noy 08/11/2010 at 11:21 PM

Gulbis - so talented, so comfortable in his own skin, so witty and funny! (even when he is completely a D#*khead he is funny!)
Good write-up, Steve!

Posted by Dinesh 08/12/2010 at 12:12 AM

No one mentioned that Ernests Gulbis comes from an extremely wealthy family (reports say his father is a billionaire).

His comments above sound in line with those made by someone who has no worries or concerns, whose worst-case scenario is being the son of a billionaire. I imagine that his life on the tennis tour, staying at Marriott Hotels in Cincinnati, is far worse than flying in private jets and staying at the finest five star European Hotels.

I actually don't disagree with his comments pertaining to smoking (hey, it's a theory), but the direction of his words signify someone who has no boundaries or rules within their personal life.

I'm not judging him; most likely I would find it difficult to motivate myself for the grind that is the ATP Tour for an extended period of time if the alternative was a posh, care-free life.

In contrast, I think he's maximized his potential and talent, and will find it difficult to locate sources of motivation to push him to the next level.

My thoughts, just my thoughts...

Posted by bemol 08/12/2010 at 02:06 AM

Gumy was a blessing for him and two weeks ago, a former ATP fitness trainer joined him on tour. Great need for every player.
Nadal had a bigger team at 16, Gulbis will turn 22 soon. Not too late to bloom your inner talent into regular success when you find the ingredients for a good receipe.
Doing what he needs to do, as he said, brought his ranking from 99 to 27 in 8 months.
Many tennis players after 10 years on tour, never reached that level and won't probably, but they loved their "job".
Gulbis passing the next 10 years at lower ranking is impossible to imagine as he would quit the job. Saying that tennis is not all in life, is quite realistic because that is so true.
Hoping he gets further in the draw more often if luck is on his side in future tournament.
On 2rd last USO, he met Murray, in Indian Wells: Davidenko, in Rome: Federer, we taught he would never pass the 2rd, but he prevailed,, in Toronto: Soderling...
But it is a good thing at the same time, it raises his confidence when the fight is solid.

Meanwhile he is giving it a try to progress, let’s enjoy that "renaissance" boyish look on court, as someone said, displaying his "russian roulette" volleys, his fluent services and astonishing strokes when he is in the zone.

“Gulbis is a beautiful player, with a beautiful game. A rarity on ATP tour” (unknown source)

Posted by sharon 08/12/2010 at 02:20 AM

Some wonderful comments for a very interesting article. Such a shame it doesn't happen more often on TW. I particularly like these two:

pov - 02:06 PM

"Even though he says he can’t relate to this country, to me Gulbis is the most American of the Eastern European players."

lol. Tignor, you're brilliant even when you don't know it. In one sentence you encapsulate Gulbis' perspective, your perspective and unwittingly give an example of the very mentality that leads to the things that alienate Gulbis (and others.)


cami - 05:58 PM

There are days where everything clicks and the match is right there for the taking, but more often, the match eludes you, and you cannot seem to get in it. Ernests doesn't look hard enough for the match when the match is hard to find. He's made progress in this area, for sure. But he has to stick with it until the end. I don't think he's quite there yet. He still needs a little "help" from his opponent to win these close ones, like with Bellucci here or Fed in Rome. But when he doesn't receive much from the opponent, he cannot take it from them, like Rafa does.

Maybe he's frustrated because he didn't expect life on the ATP to be such a hassle and such a grind. Rafa said he goes on court with the belief he can win, but it will be very hard. So when it becomes very difficult, he is not frustrated, because he expected it. He knows winning is impossible without trying hard. So he tries hard, all the time. This modesty and maturity is what Ernests is lacking now. I think he still wants things fast and easy like when he was a kid.

Posted by Randall 08/12/2010 at 02:21 AM

I saw Ernest lose to Alejandro Falla in a third set tiebreak at the Farmers Classic. He seems too talented. He was down 4-6 in the tiebreak and hit consecutive winners, one of which was a drop shot. On the next couple of points he hit drop shots as well, almost just for fun. THen on match point he threw his racket across the court, which shouldve been a point penalty, since he has already broken 3. Hopefully though he can get his act together and make a deep run at the Open. Every player has theyre different stages, and some take longer than others. I believe one day he will win a slam.

Posted by pogiako 08/12/2010 at 02:53 AM

Not all players can be like Roger or Rafael. Let us just enjoy what Ernest has to offer for now. Maybe next year he will be in the top 10 or not! Everybody except for Juan (injured) are working their butts to get there or stay there. Last year Robin and Juan joined the elite group. This year, Thomas joined in. Maybe next year it will be Ernest's turn. But there are so many better and stronger players ahead of him. So let us just wait and see.

Posted by rg.nadal 08/12/2010 at 04:48 AM

Very good read!

Posted by Pete 08/12/2010 at 05:00 AM

Gulbis has a gift for the sport we love - the ability to make that outrageous pass or drop shot that no-one ever thought possible. To bring the same joy that one gets from making a brilliant shot in our own games. Love Tennis, love watching players like Gulbis. Quality.

Posted by Charlie 08/12/2010 at 05:15 AM

"He has a tennis gift, but he also has the gift of relatability. He’s a guy you might know, a guy—unlike, say, Robin Soderling—you might have been. Even though he says he can’t relate to this country, to me Gulbis is the most American of the Eastern European players. Maybe that’s not a huge surprise, since he was born after the Iron Curtain fell and did his tennis training in Germany."

where to start?! Provocation demands response.

No offense to Gulbis, who seems like a great guy, and I love his thing about the feeling not lasting long i.e. it's a continual trajectory of constant work for irregular reward... but since when have I or anyone here known any sons of m/billionaires, let alone honestly relate to them?

I love the way the American tells the non-American he's very American. The usual subconscious divide and rule - divide his/story, and then tell him that makes him American. Fast forward a little and someone will be telling him that his criticisms of airport security etc are un-American and he should consider going back to wherever he's from (as was Navratilova on CNN's Connie Chung Tonight show, 2002).

But the funny thing is that Gulbis certainly could be American in a flash- people with tons of cash are very welcome in the land of the free. It's just that almost nobody else is anymore e.g the incoming cash charges just to enter your country. I realise, sorry -realize- there's hardly any non-Americans left in this world, but it's kinda' hard to relate. I'm sure it won't be for long yo, I mean though.

Posted by Tim 08/12/2010 at 08:57 AM

I am a Gulbis fan. I have seen him play, his game is compact, return of serve is great, a treat to watch. Unlike other player, Gulbis has a character that he is not afraid to display and I like that. He's says things as they appear to him, we am be critical of what he says and dismiss it but bear he mind, he's only 21. I think as he ages and matures, it will actually take some of the fun away.

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