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Old 05-26-2008, 09:24 AM   #16
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Default Re: Ernests' news thread!

Thank you!
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The importance of being Ernests Riga Mortis


Ernests Gulbis on seeing HEAD racquets being made by hand:
Quote:
I felt so bad. I didn’t break a racquet for like one month. They are putting so much effort to make the racquets and an idiot like me goes and breaks them
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Old 05-26-2008, 11:01 AM   #17
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Default Re: Ernests' news thread!

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Gulbis iztur pirmo pārbaudījumu


Tenisists Ernests Gulbis otro gadu pēc kārtas pārvarējis Francijas atklātā čempionāta pirmo apli. Vakar no viņa rokas krita vācietis Simons Groils – 6–4, 6–0 un 6–4.
27 gadus vecais tenisists līdz šim bija spēlējis trīs Grand Slam sacensību pamatturnīrā, allaž zaudējot pirmajā kārtā, un Gulbja veiksmīgā spēle neļāva viņam šo tradīciju lauzt.


Piektdienas izloze Latvijas tenisa faniem sākotnēji sagādāja nelielu izbīli – Gulbim jāspēlē ar Argentīnas tenisistu Davidu Nalbandjanu, kurš Parīzē izlikts ar sesto numuru. Ernests viņu šogad gandrīz pārspēja Indianvelsas turnīrā, taču tas bija uz cietā tipa segumiem, nevis uz Gulbim neparocīgā māla. Turklāt Nalbandjans Francijas atklātajā čempionātā allaž spēlējis lieliski, divreiz aizkļūstot līdz pusfinālam. To, ka pret Nalbandjanu Gulbjim būtu daudz mazākas cerības, apliecināja argentīnieša pārliecinošā uzvara pār citu māla laukumu speciālistu Karlosu Berloku – 6–2, 6–4 un 6–1.


Grūti izskaidrot, kāpēc, bet datorā redzamie izlozes rezultāti nesakrita ar tiem, kādi klātienē tika paziņoti spēlētājiem. Šajā gadījumā starpība bija milzīga – Nalbandjana vietā pretī stājās kāds no kvalifikācijas turnīra veiksminiekiem, par kuru kļuva vācietis Simons Groils. Rangā viņš ieņem tikai 193. vietu, taču dažkārt ir izdevīgāk spēlēt ar kādu augstāk stāvošu tenisistu, nevis to, kurš pārvarējis atlases sietu, – trīs uzvaras kvalifikācijā apliecina, ka spēlētājs ir labā formā, turklāt jau pieradis pie laukumiem.


Par Groila varējumu pirms mača bija grūti spriest. Zināms, ka kvalifikācijas turnīra otrajā kārtā viņš mājās aizsūtījis talantīgo japāni Keju Nišikori, kuram Gulbis šogad uz māla zaudēja Bermudu Challenger turnīrā. Toties februārī Bezonsonas Challenger sacensībās (telpās uz cietā seguma) viņš bez ierunām kapitulēja mūsu otrā numura Anda Juškas priekšā – 4–6 un 0–6. Groilam šis ir pirmais French Open pamatturnīrs, un pie uzvarām Grand Slam sacensībās viņš vēl nav ticis. 2006. gadā viņš spēlēja Vimbldonā un US Open, pērnā gada sākumā – Austrālijā un allaž zaudēja pirmajā aplī.


Gulbis Parīzē piekto reizi pēc kārtas cīnās Grand Slam pamatturnīrā, un French Open ir pirmais turnīrs, kurā viņš spēlē otro reizi. No pagājušā gada palikušas labas atmiņas par uzvaru pirmajā aplī pār slaveno britu Timu Henmanu, taču progress rangā gada laikā nav sanācis. Pērn Parīzē viņš ieradās, esot 84. vietā, bet tagad Ernests noslēdz pirmā simta astoto desmitu. Izskaidrojums ir vienkāršs – Gulbis sācis spēlēt gandrīz tikai ATP turnīros, un punkti tajos krājas lēnāk nekā līdz tam Challenger sacensībās.


Francijas atklātais čempionāts ir vienīgais, kas sākas svētdienā (pārējie – pirmdienā), un sagadījās tā, ka Gulbim laukumā bija jāiziet jau pirmajā dienā. Mačs ar mazpazīstamo vācieti lielu ažiotāžu neradīja, un spēlētāji tika aicināti uz paša attālākā laukuma (ar 17. kārtas numuru). Ja atceramies pagājušo gadu, pirms mača ar Henmanu Gulbis ilgi neparādījās kortā, par ko bija sašutuši britu žurnālisti. Šoreiz notika pretēji – Ernests jau labu laiciņu gaidīja uz sava krēsla laukuma malā, bet Groila kā nebija, tā nebija. Tikai tad, kad Ernests par to sāka diskusiju ar mača tiesnesi, vācietis iesoļoja pa ieejas vārtiņiem.


Jau pēc dažām izspēlēm varēja saprast, kāpēc Groils vinnēja Nišikori, bet telpās tik viegli piekāpās Juškam. Gulbja pārākums meistarībā bija acīmredzams, taču Groils ir tipisks māla laukumu speciālists, un šie divi komponenti līdzsvarojās. Pirmajā geimā Gulbim nācās atvairīt breikpunktu, taču vēlāk viņš iespēlējās, un ar katru geimu viņa pārsvars kļuva manāmāks. Pēdējos trīs geimus pirmajā setā Gulbis vinnēja uz nulli, un vienreiz viņam izdevās lauzt Groila servi, kas deva uzvaru ar 6–4.


Otrajā setā spēles raksturs nemainījās, un Groils neatrada pretlīdzekļus Gulbja servei un sitieniem no gala līnijas. Otro setu mūsu tenisists uzvarēja sausā – 6–0. Šāds scenārijs turpinājās arī trešā seta sākumā, un Ernests ātri izvirzījās vadībā ar 3–0. Tad pēc vienpadsmit geimu pārtraukuma Groilam izdevās tikt pie punkta, un vācietis sajuta, ka vēl var ieķerties. Kad Ernests bija vadībā ar 4–2, Groils veiksmīgi nospēlēja geimu un tika pie sava otrā breikpunkta (pirmā kopš mača sākuma). Ernests izdarīja visu, lai uzvarētu izspēlē, taču izšķirošais sitiens no labās puses lidoja tīklā. "Tā bija nepiedodama kļūda," vēlāk piekrita Gulbis.


Tas, ka vācietis panāca izlīdzinājumu breiku ziņā, sapurināja mūsu tenisistu, jo viņš negribēja spēlēt ceturto setu. Nākamajā geimā Groils atvairīja vienu breikpunktu un panāca 4–4, tomēr tas izrādījās pēdējais geims, ko viņš guva savā debijas reizē French Open pamatturnīrā. Ernests pārliecinoši uzvarēja savas serves geimā un pie 5–4 panāca 15–40 – tātad divas mačbumbas. Pirmajā no tām bumba Gulbja pusē neparocīgi atlēca no līnijas, bet otrajā pēc labas izspēles Ernests kļūdījās. Brīdi vēlāk Gulbim trešā mačbumba, taču atkal nekā – pēc Groila sitiena bumba trāpa līnijā! Par laimi, brīžos, kad rezultāti bija vienādi, vācietis spēlēja neveiksmīgi, un ar ceturto mačbumbu Gulbim izdevās gūt izšķirošo punktu – pēc laukumā pavadītas pusotras stundas uzvara 6–4, 6–0 un 6–4.


"Pirms mača biju ļoti uztraucies, jo zināju, ka spēlēju labi, taču iepriekš nesanāca uzvarēt. No pirmās līdz pēdējai izspēlei biju maksimāli nokoncentrējies," atzina Gulbis. "Piecu setu mačā pirmais sets ir ļoti svarīgs, un, kad to uzvarēju, radās lielāka pārliecība un viss sāka iet manā labā. Varēja just, ka viņš uztraucas, jo es spēlēju labi. Bet, kad pienāca izšķirīgie punkti, veiksme atkal nebija manā pusē. Nedaudz panervozēju, jo pēdējos mačos svarīgos punktus allaž uzvarēja pretinieks. Iepriekš Groilu pārāk labi nezināju, kaut gan pirms diviem gadiem biju redzējis, kā viņš spēlē Challenger turnīros. Arī treneris [ar Ernestu tagad strādā austriešu speciālists Hains Karls Veters] sen viņu nebija redzējis."


Gulbja pretinieks otrajā kārtā (droši vien trešdien) būs sacensību 7. numurs Džeims Bleiks no ASV. Ņemot vērā, ka vēlākais otrajā aplī pretī bija jāstājas kādam no izliktajiem tenisistiem, šis nav sliktākais variants. Bleiks Roland Garros laukumos spēlē sesto reizi un vēl nekad nav ticis tālāk par trešo apli (trīs no piecām reizēm zaudējis otrajā kārtā). "Jā, ar izlozi šoreiz ir paveicies. Kad ieraudzīju tabulu, sapratu, ka varu zaudēt gan pirmajā aplī, gan iziet kādas četras kārtas. Bleiks, protams, ir labs spēlētājs, bet viņam mīļākais segums ir hard. Ja labi spēlēšu, varu uzvarēt," sprieda Gulbis. Ernests neuzskata – tāpēc, ka Bleiku viņš pazīst labāk, nekā amerikānis mūsu tenisistu, viņam būs kādas priekšrocības. "Pirms gada mani neviens nepazina, bet tagad visi zina, kā es spēlēju. Treneri pat saka, ka otrais gads lielajā apritē ir visgrūtākais."


Pirmajā aplī 28 gadus vecais Bleiks ar 6–4, 6–1 un 7–6 pieveica vācieti Raineru Šutleru – to pašu, ar kuru kopā Gulbis šogad uzvarēja Hjūstonas turnīrā dubultspēlēs. Ernests uz Šutlera palīdzību necer – vai vācietis spēs sniegt kādu vērtīgu padomu, ja pats zaudējis trijos setos?

Gulbis passes the first test

Tennis player Ernest Gulbis is in the second round of French Open for the second year in a row. Yesterday he beat a player from Germany Simon Greul - 6-4, 6-0, 6-4.

The 27 year old player had played 3 times in the main draw of Grand Slams before and never got further than the first round. Gulbis' successful play didn't let him break this tradition.

[A paragraph about the fake draw and how we're happy Gulbis didn't have to play Nalbandian in the first round.]

The real draw decided that Gulbis had to play a qualifier which later turned out to be Simon Greul. Greul is only 193 in the rankings, but sometimes it's better to play a higher ranked player than a qualifier because qualifiers have already won 3 matches which means they are in good form and used to the courts.

It was hard to judge Greul's chances before the match. We knew that in the 2nd round of qualification he had sent home the talented Japanese player Kei Nishikori, to whom Gulbis lost this year in the Bermuda challenger. But in February in Besancon challenger on hard he had lost to Andis Juska 4-6, 0-6.

This is Gulbis' 5th Grand Slam in the main draw, and French Open is the first GS where he participates for a second time. Gulbis has good memories from last year's win over British Tim Henman but rankings-wise Gulbis hasn't had progress during this time. Last year he was no. 84, this year no. 80. The explanation is simple - Gulbis now plays mostly ATP tournaments and it's harder to get points in those than in challengers.

French Open is the only Grand Slam that starts on Sunday (the rest start on Monday) and it turned out that Gulbis had to play already on the first day of the tournament. His match with the little-known German was put in the farthest court with number 17. If we remember last year, Gulbis didn't appear on the court for a long time before his match against Henman, and the British journalists were indignant. Now it was the other way around - Ernest was waiting for quite a while in his chair on the side of the court. Greul showed up only when Ernest had started talking with the umpire about it.

It was clear very soon why Greul defeated Nishikori on clay but lost to Juska on hard. It was evident that Gulbis is a more skilled player overall but Greul - a clay specialist. Gulbis saved a breakpoint in the first game but then he got more comfortable and his dominance became more apparent with each game. The last 3 games of the first set Gulbis won to 0 and he broke Greul's serve once which gave him the first set 6-4.

The character of the game didn't change in the second set and Greul couldn't find any answers to Gulbis' serve or his big forehand/backhand strokes. So Gulbis won the second set 6-0. The same stuff continued in the beginning of the third set with Gulbis taking the lead 3-0. Then Greul finally won a game (after losing the previous 11 ones) and sensed that all is not lost yet. When Ernest was serving at the result 4-2, Greul played a successful game and got his second breakpoint in the match. Ernest did everything to win the point but the final ball went into the net from his forehand. "It was an unforgivable mistake", later agreed Gulbis.

Greul breaking back gave Gulbis an additional push because he didn't want to play a 4th set. Greul saved a breakpoint in the next game to make it 4-4 but it turned out to be the last game Greul won in his French Open debut. Ernest won his own service game very convincingly and then got 15-40 on Greul's serve, which meant that Gulbis had to match balls. In the first one, the ball bounced from the line on Gulbis' side in a way he hadn't anticipated. In the second one, Gulbis made a mistake after a good rally. Some moments later Gulbis has his third matchball but Greul makes a winner. Fortunately, the German player wasn't playing successfully when it was deuce so a while later Gulbis got his 4th matchpoint and took it winning the match 6-4 6-0 6-4 in 94 minutes.

"I was very nervous before the match. I knew I was playing well but I couldn't win the previous matches. I was on maximum concentration all throughout the match," said Gulbis. "The first set is very important in a five set match and after I won it, I got more belief in myself and in my game and everything started to go my way. I could feel that he was worried because I was playing well. But when the deciding point came, I was unlucky again. I was nervous at that moment because my opponents always won the important points in my last matches. I didn't know Greul too well although I had seen him 2 years ago in challengers. My coach hadn't seen him for a long time either."

Gulbis' second round opponent (probably on Wednesday) will be number 7 seed James Blake from the USA. Taking into account that a seeded player couldn't be avoided in the 2nd round, this is not the worst possible scenario. Blake is playing in RG for the 6th time and he's never gotten further than the 3rd round, 3 times he's lost in the 2nd round. "Yes, it's a lucky draw for me this time. When I saw the table, I realized that I could lose in the first round but I could also go as far as the 4th round. Of course, Blake is a good player but his favourite surface is hard. I can win if I play well," says Gulbis. Ernest doesn't think the fact that he knows Blake better than Blake knows him would give him any advantage. "Nobody knew me a year ago but now everybody knows my game. My coach even says that the second year on the ATP tour is the hardest one."

28 year old Blake defeated Reiner Schuettler in the first round (6-4, 6-1, 7-6), the same Schuettler with whom Ernest won in the doubles tournament earlier this year in Houston. Ernest isn't hoping that Schuettler could give him some advice on how to play against Blake - how could he give advice when he lost to Blake in 3 sets?

P.S. I apologize for any English mistakes, I don't have time to proofread this.
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Old 05-26-2008, 11:08 AM   #18
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Default Re: Ernests' news thread!

Evita - paldies Thanks for taking the time to translate the article whilst at work, its very kind of you Its a very good read.
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Old 05-26-2008, 11:30 AM   #19
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Default Re: Ernests' news thread!

Evita, thank you! it's an awfully long article - must've taken you a while to type it all up.

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The importance of being Ernests Riga Mortis


Ernests Gulbis on seeing HEAD racquets being made by hand:
Quote:
I felt so bad. I didn’t break a racquet for like one month. They are putting so much effort to make the racquets and an idiot like me goes and breaks them
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Old 05-26-2008, 11:34 AM   #20
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Yes, I debated skipping all the stuff that we know anyway but I had some free time and such long articles about Ernest are so rare that I thought all his fans deserved something nice and long to read
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Old 05-26-2008, 11:51 AM   #21
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Default Re: Ernests' news thread!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Evita5 View Post
Yes, I debated skipping all the stuff that we know anyway but I had some free time and such long articles about Ernest are so rare that I thought all his fans deserved something nice and long to read
That's very nice of you

I found this on the RG website... Drew Lilley

Quote:
Herr Greul is about to serve to save the match against Latvian prodigy Ernst Gulbis, whose name means swan (another piece of incredible information I acquired from one of our readers last year).
Gab would remember the "Gulbisland" fiasco last year the RG as-it-happens guy initially said that Ernests is from Estonia, triggering a flood of indignant emails... Well, from Gab and me at least.

It's all somewhere there in the old thread but I'm too lazy to dig it up
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The importance of being Ernests Riga Mortis


Ernests Gulbis on seeing HEAD racquets being made by hand:
Quote:
I felt so bad. I didn’t break a racquet for like one month. They are putting so much effort to make the racquets and an idiot like me goes and breaks them
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Old 05-26-2008, 11:56 AM   #22
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Default Re: Ernests' news thread!

Thanks for the article.
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Old 05-26-2008, 02:13 PM   #23
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Default Re: Ernests' news thread!

Thank you so much Evita! It was a good read, and it was also great to hear some comments from Ernests, feels like it's ages since we've heard any!

Quote:
Originally Posted by jitterbug View Post
That's very nice of you

I found this on the RG website... Drew Lilley



Gab would remember the "Gulbisland" fiasco last year the RG as-it-happens guy initially said that Ernests is from Estonia, triggering a flood of indignant emails... Well, from Gab and me at least.

It's all somewhere there in the old thread but I'm too lazy to dig it up
I read this last night too, and I remember reading about it all in the thread last year Was it you or Gab who told the swan thing as well?
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Old 05-26-2008, 02:24 PM   #24
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Default Re: Ernests' news thread!

I told him that Ernests is from Latvia, Gab sent him the Gulbisland map, then Lilley said "Well I've never seen any Gulbises roaming in the forest."

And I promptly replied something to the effect of, if he'd kept his eyes open he would've seen plenty of swans easy enough
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The importance of being Ernests Riga Mortis


Ernests Gulbis on seeing HEAD racquets being made by hand:
Quote:
I felt so bad. I didn’t break a racquet for like one month. They are putting so much effort to make the racquets and an idiot like me goes and breaks them
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Old 05-26-2008, 02:29 PM   #25
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So basically you're famous now?
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Old 05-26-2008, 02:35 PM   #26
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Lilley said: "Zara told me Gulbis means swan. Well he'd be right at home on Chatrier right now," because it kept raining. And he mentioned something about Swan Lake too

Lilley is an absolute crackpot
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The importance of being Ernests Riga Mortis


Ernests Gulbis on seeing HEAD racquets being made by hand:
Quote:
I felt so bad. I didn’t break a racquet for like one month. They are putting so much effort to make the racquets and an idiot like me goes and breaks them
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Old 05-26-2008, 05:07 PM   #27
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Default Re: Ernests' news thread!

from RolandGarros.com:

It's in French, let me know if you don't understand it and I will try to translate!

A la rencontre de… Ernests Gulbis
lundi 26 mai 2008
Par Benjamin Adler

Le Letton de Georges Simenon (qui a immortalisé l’inspecteur Maigret), Pietr, était un tantinet effrayant et carrément aigrefin. Celui du tennis, Ernests, avec son faciès angélique, est un brin intriguant et franchement attachant. Premier joueur du petit pays balte à intégrer le top 100, tout juste après sa majorité, Gulbis détonne dans le paysage du tennis professionnel. Moins il passe de temps dans les coulisses du circuit, mieux il se porte. Sur les courts en revanche, il y pose sa grande et frêle carcasse et le voilà heureux. Comme un gamin qu’il est encore, à 19 ans.

« J’adore être sur le court, mais en dehors j’ai besoin de m’échapper. Je ne peux pas vraiment dire que j’aime la vie sur le circuit mais gagner un match me procure aujourd’hui des sensations incomparables. A mon âge, qu’est-ce qui pourrait m’offrir de tels sentiments ? », confie le 79e joueur mondial, amoureux de littérature et de films ‘’vintage’’ des années 70 et 80.

A 12 ans chez Niki Pilic

Le ton est zen, la voix presque psalmodique, le sourire sincère mais timide. Parler de lui, ce n’est pas son exercice préféré. Mais il s’y prête sans rechigner. Affable, poli. Bien élevé. Alors on lui pose la question qui titille notre curiosité : comment un petit-fils de basketteur, progéniture d’une actrice et d’un businessman, en est-il venu à la balle jaune dans un pays où celle orange du basket et le palet du hockey sont des institutions ?

« J’étais un enfant très actif, il n’y avait pas d’autres choix que de me faire pratiquer un sport pour me calmer. En plus, j’avais une bonne coordination. J’adore le basket et le football, mais j’étais assez individualiste et donc les sports d’équipe me convenaient moins. Avec ma grand-mère on tapait quelques balles, mais ensuite mon père m’a parlé d’un ami de lycée à lui qui était coach et je suis allé le voir », explique celui qui s’est déjà fait un nom en France sur les tournois secondaires, tel le Challenger de Besançon qu’il a remporté l’an passé.

Pendant un an et demi, Ernests ne gagne pas un match. Mais alors pas un. « Pourtant, je ne sais pourquoi, j’ai toujours eu ce sentiment que je pouvais faire quelque chose de bien dans le tennis ». Alors il persiste, avec l’aval de ses parents. A 12 ans, il réalise son premier séjour à l’académie du célèbre entraîneur Niki Pilic, à Munich. Là même où un certain Novak Djokovic répète ses gammes.

Quatre ans plus tard, le gourou croate décide de s’occuper à plein temps de son joyau letton. « Il avait dit quand je suis venu la première fois, que plus jamais il ne coacherait. Mais il a cru en mon potentiel et on a commencé à voyager ensemble. » Un tournant pour Ernests, qui se dit alors pour la première fois que jouer au tennis pourrait finalement devenir un métier. La consécration viendra à l’été 2007 avec un huitième de finale à l’US Open. « Ma victoire à New York face à Robredo est mon meilleur souvenir », confirme l’intéressé, ambitieux sans être fanfaron.

Balades dans Paris

Et de poursuivre : « Mes résultats ont permis de populariser le tennis en Lettonie et j’en suis heureux. Avant, les places pour les matches de Coupe Davis étaient gratuites mais personne ne venait. Pour le dernier match à domicile, contre Monaco en septembre 2007, il y avait 1500 spectateurs Mais je n’ai rien fait encore pour être vraiment fier de moi. Il y a 100 joueurs comme moi dans le monde, mon ambition n’est pas de rester entre les places 50 et 100 pendant sept ans. »

Débarrassé des pépins physiques (genou, cheville, dents) qui ont pollué sa saison 2007, et désormais coaché par Karl Heinz Wetter, Gulbis se donne les moyens de ses ambitions : « Je m’entraîne plus et mieux, notamment le physique et je sais que ça va payer. » Il est donc confiant, Ernests, avant d’affronter James Blake au deuxième tour, après sa victoire au premier tour sur Simon Greul.

« J’avoue que quand j’ai regardé le tableau, ça m’a rendu un peu nerveux car je l’ai trouvé jouable. Et à ce stade de ma carrière, ça me stresse un peu. » La peur de la frustration sans doute. En attendant d’affronter l’Américain, Ernests va se plonger dans son nouveau bouquin, un roman japonais (« c’est mon père qui me l’a conseillé ») et se promener dans Paris ((« l’une de mes trois villes préférées dans le monde ») Pour s’évader. Pour mieux s’éclater, raquette en main.
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Last edited by lenemie : 05-26-2008 at 05:43 PM.
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Old 05-26-2008, 05:51 PM   #28
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Default Re: Ernests' news thread!

Thanks for that article, I would never have thought to look in the French section of RG website. My French is just a little bit better than poor so I used the Babelfish translator to get it in English. Here it is.
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Old 05-26-2008, 06:00 PM   #29
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Default Re: Ernests' news thread!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Evita5 View Post
Thanks for that article, I would never have thought to look in the French section of RG website. My French is just a little bit better than poor so I used the Babelfish translator to get it in English. Here it is.
Evita, thank you so much for all your efforts today, I really appreciate everything you do for the news thread

Its a great insight into Ernests, and the picture that goes with the article is wonderful Thanks again for the translations you've done today
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Old 05-26-2008, 08:41 PM   #30
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Default Re: Ernests' news thread!

The article on rg.com is now available in English, too. It's here.

Quote:
The importance of being Ernests

Monday, May 26, 2008
By Benjamin Adler


With his angelic features, Latvian Ernests Gulbis is already an endearing character but his story makes him even more so. Just after his 18th birthday, Gulbis became the first player in the history of his small Baltic homeland to enter the top 100, stunning the tennis world on the way. The less time he spends on the tour, the better is suits him however, but once he gets his tall, frail body on the court he is as happy as a teenager – which after all is what he still is.

“I love being on the court but when I’m off it, I need to get away from tennis,” confides the fan of literature and classic films from the 70s and 80s. “I can’t really say that I like life on the circuit but winning a match is an amazing feeling. At my age, what else would give me a feeling like that?”

Training with Niki Pilic

With his relaxed attitude, almost sing-song voice and shy smile, it is easy to see that he is not one to blow his own trumpet. He happily answers our questions with impeccable politeness, demonstrating his good upbringing. There is one question that we are dying to ask him though: how did the grandson of a basketball player, son of an actress and a businessman end up choosing tennis over the two sporting institutions of his country – basketball and hockey?

“I was a very active child and did a lot of sport as a way of burning up my excess energy. I’ve always had good coordination and love basketball and football, but I preferred playing on my own as opposed to as part of a team. I used to knock up a bit with my grandmother, but then my father told me about one of his old school friends who was a coach and so I went to meet him,” explains the winner of last year’s Challenger at Besançon, who has made quite a name for himself on the small tournament circuit.

For 18 months he won no matches at all. “I don’t know why, but I always believed I was destined for great things in tennis.” So he battled on, supported all the way by his parents. At the tender age of 12 he went to stay at the famous Niki Pilic academy in Munich for the first time, the very same place where a certain Novak Djokovic hones his skills.

Four years later, the Croatian guru decided to coach his star pupil full time. “When I first came to the academy he said that he would never coach again. But he believed in my potential and so we started travelling around together.” This tour gave Ernests the idea that he could make tennis his career. His breakthrough came in summer 2007, when he reached the fourth round in the US Open. “My win in New York against Robredo is my fondest memory,” the ambitious yet humble star tells us.

Promenades in Paris

“My success has made tennis more popular in Latvia and I’m happy about that,” he continues. “Davis Cup tickets used to be given away for free, but people still didn’t bother going to see them. Then in September 2007, the attendance leapt to 1,500 for the final home fixture against Monaco. But I still don’t feel like I’ve achieved anything to be proud of. There are a hundred other players like me out there. I don’t plan on staying ranked between 50 and a 100 for the next seven years.”

Having shaken off all the niggling injuries that plagued him during the 2007 season (to his knee, ankle and even teeth) and with new coach Karl Heinz Wetter by his side, Gulbis is hoping to take his game to another level. “I’ve been training harder and better, especially on the physical aspect and I know that will pay off.” Having eliminated Simon Greul in the first round, Gulbis is feeling confident ahead of taking on Blake in the second round.

“I have to admit that when I saw the draw it made me a little nervous because I thought it actually looked quite do-able. That stresses me out a bit at this point in my career,” says Gulbis, who is no doubt afraid of coming away from the tournament frustrated. In the meantime before his clash with Blake, Ernests is getting stuck into a new Japanese novel (“my father recommended it to me”) and walking around Paris (“one of my favourite cities”) in order to take his mind off things – that way he can really enjoy playing his tennis.
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