TENNIS 2014 ROLAND GARROS – 3rd of June. E. Gulbis d. T. Berdych 6-3, 6-2, 6-4. An interview with Ernests Gulbis
Q. A few years ago tennis experts said that you are a great talent.
ERNESTS GULBIS: Which tennis experts?
Q. A few of them.
ERNESTS GULBIS: Okay.
Q. Now you showed it. What took you so long?
ERNESTS GULBIS: (Laughter.) I answer this question many times. What took me so long? I think I was eating wrong. I had the wrong diet.
Everybody was talking about this gluten free diet. My diet is full on gluten. I like a lot of ketchup, a lot of unhealthy stuff so there is a balance which I found in the last couple of years (smiling).
Q. You said yesterday that you thought you had one of the best backhands on the tour. Out of the guys that are left in the tournament now Djokovic, Nadal, Murray, Monfils do you feel like you have the best backhand out of the six guys that are left in the tournament?
ERNESTS GULBIS: Why my opinion should have changed from day to day? If I said that I have the best one, one of the best throughout all the tour, doesn’t matter who’s left in the tournament. My backhand didn’t change overnight.
Q. It’s an ego thing? You need to show you can actually do this time?
ERNESTS GULBIS: Okay, if you want to go that way, then I will explain a little bit.
For me, I found throughout these years what is important for me to be truly happy. For me to be truly happy I said it many times, also in the press conference; I don’t know if you were here yesterday or the day before that my happiness comes only from doing well my job.
Then I can really live my life to the maximum. You know, I can enjoy the stuff much more.
So for me it’s really important for my happiness just to be successful on the tennis court. Forget about the money. Forget about fame. It’s just about my inner comfort. That’s it.
For me, that’s all that matters in the end of the day.
Q. On a boring tennis subject, you served exceptionally well today. Are you serving as well consistently, do you think, as you’ve ever done in your career?
ERNESTS GULBIS: Yes. Well, I remember the match I played against Berdych. It was in Rotterdam, and I lost the match because he was returning really well.
On a fast surface he was standing close to the line, a little bit similar like Roger is returning close to the line, not going far back.
On clay it’s a little bit tougher because you know you have a little bit more bad bounces and the ball is a little bit higher, so I think it’s a little bit easier if you step back.
So for clay my serve was working better against Berdych than on fast surface. I think I served the best against Radek Stepanek. Against Roger the level was a little bit down. Now today it was really high.
Today everything was good. I felt physically so good. I felt that I can run forever. I felt that he cannot make winner, you know? That’s how I felt on court. I felt that I covered it really well.
If I feel so confident, you know, from the baseline, then everything just comes together.
Q. Last February your mom told you you should probably quit tennis.
ERNESTS GULBIS: Now she tells me if I win the tournament I shouldn’t quit (Laughter.)
Q. I’m wondering why tennis? You could do many different things with your life. You have all these off court pursuits. You’re a smart guy. Why grind away on this tour?
ERNESTS GULBIS: Thank you.
Q. Yeah, no worries.
ERNESTS GULBIS: Why?
Q. Yeah, why.
ERNESTS GULBIS: You know, sometimes we don’t choose our profession; the profession chooses us.
I was five years old when parents brought me to tennis. If they would bring me to football or basketball, that wasn’t my choice. I was just an active kid. I liked every kind of sport.
Tennis basically chose me because my father had a friend who was a tennis coach. That’s why I started, you know. I’m pretty sure that I would be good with anything with a ball.
I think I would be pretty good basketball player, pretty good football player, you know, because I like ball. I have a good feeling for it, you know. Just happened to be tennis.
For a while, you know, I was a little bit pissed off about it because I wish I could play on a team, you know, because in my understanding, it’s much easier. In my understanding, tennis is one of the toughest sports. You cannot compare to nothing. You’re all alone there.
If you have a bad day, that’s it. You’re done. If you have bad day in football, you give a pass. You score a goal. You won.
It’s tough, but it has its bonuses. I think if you think the right thoughts and understand what you’re doing, then it builds up your character much more than it would in any other sport.
It’s up and down. Now I’m really happy that it is tennis. I need to prove to myself that I can be the best that I can be in tennis, and then I’m going to have a clear and easy mind when I’m 35 years old sitting on a beach with a… (demonstrating drinking.) (Laughter.)
Q. You’re now talking about tennis as a job, and of course you’re a professional. That doesn’t surprise. When did you start thinking that this was a job and not a game since you were kid? Later? Recently? And also, one more question about you and Djokovic. When you were playing when you were 14 years old. Who was winning? Who was more hungry if he had no diet at that point? What do you remember of those days when you were playing Djokovic?
ERNESTS GULBIS: Yeah, about Djokovic, you know, it wasn’t that we spent too much time together. I came to Niki Pilic’s academy at one point and he was before me there, and then I stick to that place, you know, and he was just coming and going.
Basically we were there all around all during this four, five years when I was practicing there, maybe one month together, you know. So maybe even less.
We had to practice. We had couple of sets. I couldn’t really beat him. But I could beat him on carpet. There was really fast carpet indoors, so I could beat him there.
He was I told this. He was really professional already at that time. I remember we had a friend. You know, there was one Croatian guy who was all about the girls at that age already. He was dressing up. He was looking good, putting perfume, sunglasses, going to talk to the girls.
I see Novak, he’s going to stretch, you know. And Novak told me that, Yeah, you can have anybody. Can have all the girls in the world, you know. But to be really successful in tennis, you need to something like that he said to me. I remember it still.
That’s a kid who is 15 years old. I didn’t forget. (Laughter.)
About the job, when did I understand it? I still think it’s not a job. I think it’s half hobby. It’s enjoyable job, very enjoyable job.
Q. The ATP guy says that you’re named after writer Ernest Hemingway. He wrote about sports a bit. Did you ever read his work, take something from it?
ERNESTS GULBIS: Unfortunately not. Unfortunately I trust only two people with books, who is recommending me books. That’s my father and my mother. One book, Gunther recommended me, but that’s a different kind of book.
My mother is pushing me to read something from Hemingway. My father is more giving me some of the more newer stuff, modern stuff. You know, he’s not too much he’s a walking bibliothèque. We have a lot of books in our country house, and I read some of the Dostoyevsky, you know. But in Russia, for example, we have really good TV, which is basically you watch it and you know exactly what’s in the book, you know.
So he prefers that I read other stuff than what I can watch. And otherwise, I do it through TV, you know.
With Hemingway, it’s a longer conversation why I didn’t read it yet. Maybe afterwards.
Q. What about the S? If you are named after Ernest, why is your name Ernests?
ERNESTS GULBIS: In Latvia, all the men words finish with S and woman words are with A or E. That’s just grammatics.
Team World One Win Away From Victory in Laver Cup
Team World take a huge 10-2 lead over Team Europe heading into the final day
After losing the first four editions of the Laver Cup, Team World look set to win the event for a second time as the event reaches its conclusion tomorrow.
Team World Captain John McEnroe was thrilled with the day’s results but warned against complacency: “We’re just going to keep doing what we’re doing. The job’s not done but we’re pretty close.”
American duo Taylor Fritz and Frances Tiafoe both earned straight sets wins over Andrey Rublev and Hubert Hurkacz, while Felix Auger-Aliassime and Ben Shelton beat Hurkacz and Gael Monfils.
“I want to play well for the guys,” said Tiafoe after his singles victory. “I played really well tonight. Just being in a team environment is so foreign to us as tennis players, it’s such an individual sport.”
After winning his third singles match in three appearances at the Laver Cup, Fritz was also motivated to do well:
“Yesterday, all the guys played really well. I felt that and wanted to come out on court and show what I can do. That definitely motivated me. Any type of team environment, I feel like it always elevates my game. I feel like my record in team events is really strong because I have a team cheering for me. I get pumped up. I’m excited to play for them. It just adds more pressure and fire to it. I think I play better in those situations.”
The doubles was a typically dynamic and feisty affair, and after the match Shelton was full of praise for his partner:
“It’s amazing, when you play with a guy who serves and returns like Felix, is as athletic as him, and goes back for the overhead as strong as him, it’s a fun time,” said Shelton. “We call him ‘Laver Cup Felix’ because he turns into something special this week, just glad I got to share the court with him at least once.”
Auger-Aliassime returned the compliments: “The best comes out of me when I’m playing not only for myself but for team-mates. Ben carried me through the end of that match, it was tough for me to get it done.”
Casper Ruud, meanwhile, beat Tommy Paul for Europe’s only points so far.
Matches on the final day are worth three points each – meaning that Team Europe would have to win all four remaining matches to prevent Team World from winning the trophy.
T. Fritz def A. Rublev 6-2, 7-6
F. Tiafoe def H. Hurkacz 7-5, 6-3
F. Auger-Aliassime & B. Shelton def H.Hurkacz & G. Monfils 7-5, 6-4
C. Ruud def T. Paul 7-6, 6-2
ATP RANKINGS UPDATE: Novak Djokovic, No.1 once more
After the US Open the Serbian champion reclaims top spot. Alexander Zverev is back in the Top 10
By Roberto Ferri
“Don’t ever underestimate the heart of a champion”
Rudy Tomjanovich coined this maxim just after his Houston Rockets won the NBA championship in 1995. He was paying homage to Akeem Holajuwon. It perfectly suits the heart of Daniil Medvedev, who proved 99% of tennis fans in the world to be wrong, convinced as they were that he would lose the semifinal to former No 1 Carlos Alcaraz.
But his dream to win a second US Open, after his triumph in 2021, was shattered by another champion, whose heart and class is even greater: that’s Novak Djokovic, who affixes his seal on his return to No.1, equalling Margaret Court Smith’s record of 24 majors.
Djokovic dethroning Alcaraz is not the only change in the top 20: Sascha Zverev is back in the top 10 after almost one year and Ben Shelton, great protagonist of the Us Open, debuts in the top 20 best players in the world.
A few comments:
Stefanos Tsitsipas, Andrei Rublev and Alexander Zverev gain 2 positions.
Ben Shelton devours 28 positions.
Sinner, Tiafoe, Norrie and Dimitrov lose one.
Casper Ruud and Karen Khachanov, runner up and semi-finalist respectively at the 2022 US Open, drop 4 positions.
One step forward for Fritz, de Minaur, Paul, Auger-Aliassime and Hurkacz.
ATP NITTO FINALS
From 12 to 19 November the 8 best players of the ranking based on the points earned in the ongoing solar season will be playing the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin.
Will Novak Djokovic succeed in winning a second straight title? He appears to be heading in the right direction.
Thanks to his triumph at the US Open the Serbian overtakes Alcaraz also in the Race to Turin.
Jannik Sinner holds fourth spot while Andrei Rublev overtakes Stefanos Tsitsipas and is now fifth.
The eighth position is occupied by Alexander Zverev.
Last year runner up, Casper Ruud is currently 10th. This means he would feature in Turin as a reserve.
ATP NEXT GENERATION FINALS
The Next Gen Finals, dedicated to the best under 21s, (8 effectives and 2 reserves) of the season will take place this year in Gedda, Saudi Arabia.
The 2022 winner, Brandon Nakashima, will not be defending his title, since he was born in 2001.
Taking for granted that Alcaraz and, most likely Rune, will be playing the ATP Finals, we have included in the chart the 12 current top under 21s.
Besides Ben Shelton, other 11 players have achieved their career highest this week.
We tribute a double applause to the four players who are making their debut in the top 100.
The 25-year-old Croatian Borna Gojo, 22-year-old Australian Rinky Hijkata and the Swiss next gen Dominic Stricker all reap the reward for their brilliant runs at the US Open. Seyboth Wild, the Brazilian who stunned Medvedev in the first round of Roland Garros leaps to No.76 after winning the Challenger in Como last week.
Translated by Kingsley Elliot Kaye
COMMENT: Novak Djokovic Proves His Greatness At US Open
Love him, or hate him. But respect him.
No tennis player has ever been better than Novak Djokovic.
Even Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer have to take their hats off to Novak, and admire him.
Now that Rafa and Roger have left Djokovic on his own stage at least for now, tennis fans love Novak.
DJOKOVIC WENT ONE STEP FURTHER
Djokovic’s performance on Sunday evening in the U.S. Open final was simply amazing. Daniil Medvedev also played his heart out, but Djokovic went one step further. He was sensational.
It was a thrill-a-minute three-set match. It lasted well into the night after starting at mid-afternoon. The second set alone lasted 104 minutes.
Djokovic was the winner, 6-3, 7-6 (5), 6-3, but New York still loves 2021 champion Medvedev.
A FOURTH AND 24TH TITLE, AND A 24 TRIBUTE
At 36, the oldest U.S. Open men’s champion ever, Djokovic obviously has a special place in his heart for the number four. It’s the number of times he has won this tournament and the 24th time he has won a Grand Slam title.
The number 24 also was displayed prominently on the white jacket. Novak, his team members and family wore for the victory celebration as a tribute to the No. 24 jersey of deceased friend Kobe Bryant.
Djokovic lost his footing at least three times in the tight second set, stumbling to the surface once, apparently due to the length of the rallies.
Djokovic could look like he was almost completely wiped out of it physically one minute, and then play like Superman the next minute.
THREE POINTS MAY HAVE BEEN DECISIVE
Both men played great tennis, especially in the thrill-a-second second set in which Medvedev gained one set point in the 12th game before Djokovic recovered to force a tiebreaker.
Medvedev appeared to be in charge after out-playing Novak to win one of his drop shots to take a 5-4 lead in the tiebreaker. The match may have been decided on the next three points, all won by Djokovic on errors by the 6-6 Russian.
The big question now is what happens next January in the Australian Open. Right now, Djokovic probably wants to play . . . and win what has been his favorite tournament as far as success. But things can change quickly for players in their mid-30s. Just ask Roger or Rafa.
James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com.
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