Turned Pro: 2004
Highest Rank: 27 (May 2010)
Current Rank: 77
Plays: Right handed, double handed backhand
Career Prize Money: $2,472,708 USD
Ernests is from a wealthy Latvian family and speaks four languages. One of his grandfathers played professional basketball, the other was a famous actor and director. His mother was also an actress. It was Ernests grandmother that first took him down to a tennis court and introduced him to the sport.
Throughout the early years of his career his raw power helped him claim numerous high profile scalps such as Novak Djokovic and David Nalbandian but it wasn’t until this year he started putting consistent effort it, realizing that training regularly, rather than partying every few days, made him a dangerous player. “I don’t like to practice. I like to compete – go out on court and see who’s better. But, like it or not, I still have to do it. I have to put in effort. I slowly am starting to grasp that concept, because 2 years ago I thought I’d survive on account of my talent.”
Gulbis is not only friends with Marat Safin, has shared some of the same coaches but also has the same racket breaking, fun loving attitude. One year Gulbis broke an impressive number of rackets, saying, “I think I broke 64 rackets. In order to do so, you need to put some muscle into it. On the hard court, where it’s more difficult to break a racket, with one try I broke a racket in 5 places. I am emotional! Though I don’t do it because something bugs me. It’s just a stupid habit.”
2010 was his most impressive year, making the quarterfinals of Barcelona before losing to eventual winner Fernando Verdasco. His most famous victory came the following week in Rome where he defeated Roger Federer in the second round after defeating Marcos Baghdatis in the first. Despite he “shit” in his pants when realising he was beating Federer, Gulbis maintained his impressive form, thumping blinding winners and numerous aces to book a quarterfinal spot against Rafael Nadal. Gulbis managed to do what no one else had – take a set off an extremely in form Nadal.
Unfortunately we haven’t seen much of Gulbis since his first round withdrawal from the French Open with a hamstring injury. Since then he has been partying in Latvia, apparently to get it out of his system so he can focus on the remaining season.
The entertaining Gulbis was arrested in 2009 in Sweden and spent a night in jail after picking up prostitutes. In his defense he says, “How was I supposed to know that they were prostitutes?” Gulbis defended his actions saying he was a young guy who saw some cute girls (who apparently did not looking like prostitutes) and decided to offer them a ride because it was cold outside. Of his jail time he has said “It was very funny. I think every person should go to jail once, as it’s interesting. It’s really interesting, as they are very strict. I was in jail for one night, about six hours. I slept a bit. Then the prosecutor came and he asked me what happened, and then he said, ‘Sorry, we didn’t know that it was this’.”
This year Gulbis spoke to the media about his improved focus. “I woke up one morning with a hangover, I clicked my fingers, and decided, ‘right, now I go for it…. The fire in me is that I want to prove to myself that I can do it, that I can be at the top. I don’t care about money, I don’t care about fame. I don’t like money and fame, I don’t need them and I’m not living for them. I don’t know if I like or love the game so much.”
The big hitting Latvian hopes to return to the tour for the American hard court season. With his enormous serve and even bigger backhand Gulbis will be expected to do well at the US Open if he can re-find some of his earlier form and focus. His best result in New York came in 2007 where he was defeated in the fourth round by Carlos Moya.
When Gulbis was asked where he would be without tennis he responded; “I would be a different person. Tenn,is change your character. It’s a very egotistical sport – teaches you how to think only about yourself. On court you’re alone, during the training you are alone. Tennis is the loneliest sport. When you’re in a team, team members support each other, but I am looking for support from the people who surround me.”
Gulbis has had a horrendous first six months in 2011, winning just 9 matches, losing 13. Ernests is currently 6-9 for the 2012 season.