"I want to win more than I did eight years ago. Things change. I pay more attention to what I am doing on the court...I once would lose easy matches and think I still have 10 more years...now I know time is limited..."
Latvia's Ernest Gulbis had mentioned last year to the Sport24 media. He had defeated Roger Federer and a while ago claimed the world's top 10, but then his rankings had plummeted to 160. This season Gulbis has had quite an 'up and down' last month.
He came into the 2019 season reaching the Tata Open Maharashtra quarterfinals in good form. He'd defeat Pedro Sousa in three sets at the opening round and the dynamic Chung Hyeon, in straight sets but getting past the big guy veteran Ivo Karlovic in two tiebreaks was impossible.
Gulbis fell in the quarterfinals 6-7, 6-7 after a valiant, gritty try. But it wasn't all bad for he climbed 12 spots up the ATP Tour ranking and claimed world no. 83. So much for the ups of the starting new season. It was about two weeks later Gulbis was a major concern on the mind of many especially on Stan Wawrinka when they matched up at the Australian Open in its first round.
Wawrinka was very focused on making the 'Down Under' grand slam, a good impression and doing well. The beginning set Gulbis was playing more than well, pulling out all the stops on overpowering and outsmarting Wawrinka.
He had played pure textbook tennis on the Swiss by opening up the court nicely and zipping winners on a surprised Wawrinka to win the first set 6-3. 'Stan the Man' wouldn't see his match just disappear and he raised his level of play, despite his compromising knee issues and was winning the second set 3-1 when Gulbis had to retire with a back injury.
Everyone wished the Latvian well, but it was the luck and skill that Gulbis bounced back into a great statue again as he has entered the Open Sud de France tournament. There was no sign of his bad back or lacklustre previous performances as he defeated Poland's Hubert Hurkacz 6-4, 7-6 in the first round.
Gulbis was finding corners on the court that Hurkacz would never be able to return the ball and it was with good coverage that he simply outsmarted his younger opponent in the opening set. Hurkacz had gotten the first game but in no time at all Gulbis would level it.
The Pole became feisty and played gritty tennis never letting Gulbis lead more than one break. A put-away volley scared Gulbis resulting in the Pole leading 6-5 in the second set. But it was the Latvian who hit outside in shot pulling the set to a tiebreak, with everyone knowing Gulbis' record for victory tiebreaks.
This match wasn't any different and he surged ahead in points to win the tiebreak and the match 6-4, 7-6 smiling and giving thumbs up and a racket clap to the crowd as he packed his tennis bags and left to move on and up to the second round at Sud de France.