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Ernests Gulbis - The wasted talent

CONTRIBUTOR
28 Dec 2012, 07:19 IST
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Whenever I hear the line, “He is a really talented tennis player”, only one name comes to mind – Ernests Gulbis. Ernests Gulbis comes from Latvia, but he was not “just another” tennis player; he was a really really special player. I first saw Ernests Gulbis play in the French Open in 2008. He was a tall, quick and elegant player who just blew his opponents away in the opening few rounds. He was just 19 at that point of time, and he seemed like a really good player. He beat the likes of Simon Greul, James Blake and the home-favorite Michael Llodra. He not only won those matches, but won them with authority. There was an inborn grace in Ernests’s game which was clearly visible.

He then went on to reach the quarterfinals of that French Open, where he lost to Novak Djokovic. Gulbis gave Novak a serious fight, but went down fighting. Reaching the quarterfinals of the Roland Garros at just 19 years of age was a huge achievement. Ernests Gulbis is a player with an excellent serve, big forehand, considerable pace and decent ground strokes. Gulbis then did well in the upcoming tournaments. He reached the second round of the US Open in 2008, where he lost to Andy Roddick in an epic four setter. Coincidentally, it was both his and Andy’s birthday by the time the game was finished. The following year, Gulbis failed to seize his opportunities. Although he would upset some top players now and then, he was not able to sustain the consistency. He fought all through the year and played some good matches.

2010 was a breakthrough year for Ernests Gublis. The year started poorly for him, losing in the ATP Dubai Open and in the Australian Open – both first round losses. The best moment for Gulbis came in February 2012, where he won his first ever title: he won the tournament in Delray Beach beating the big serving Croatian Ivo Karlovic in straight sets. Then the clay court season came by. Gulbis took the tennis world by storm when he reached the semifinals of the 2010 Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome. He beat Roger Federer en route to the semifinals. After losing the first set, he rallied his way back into the match and pulled of a stunning third set to beat Federer. He then went on to reach the semifinals of that very tournament, where he faced Rafael Nadal. Gulbis lost to the eventual champion, Rafael Nadal. He took a set off Rafa in that match. Nicolas Almagro and Ernests Gublis were the only two people who took a set off Nadal in the 2010 clay court season. However, he had a disastrous end to the season after losing in the first round of the French Open to Julien Benneteau and in the US Open to Jeremy Chardy.

2011 was yet another ordinary season for Gulbis, but he reached a career high ranking of 21 in February 2011. He crashed out in the first round of the Australian Open. He failed to repeat the success he had in 2010 and his ranking took a beating. He once again crashed out in the first round of the Wimbledon. People started to doubt his abilities and whether he would be able to deliver at the stage where it mattered the most. He then tasted rare success by winning the Farmer’s Classic, beating Mardy Fish in 3 sets. He upset Mikhail Youzhny in the first round of the US Open 2011, but again suffered an embarrassing loss in the second round.

2012 has been yet another embarrassing year for Gulbis. The most notable achievement of 2012 was when he beat Tomas Berdych in straight sets in the first round of the Wimbledon. But he again collapsed in the second round. Gulbis is now playing in the Challenger circuit and has fallen way behind in the rankings.

Such has been the story of Ernests Gulbis. So talented, has all the abilities in the world, but his attitude and laziness have let him down. He has gone from a player who was seen as the next-big-thing in tennis to a player who is now struggling to taste victories, even in the challenger circuit. There are very little hopes of Gulbis coming back and performing consistently again. He once even said he considered quitting tennis due to his attitude. He certainly has the ability to come back and succeed in the big stage, but he has fallen way behind and the comeback  journey certainly will be a long and tiring one for him.

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