Ernests Gulbis: Anything but ordinary

Known for his humour and strong personality, Latvia's rising star talks to Al Jazeera about his Wimbledon experience.

Last Modified: 25 Jun 2013 12:08
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Gulbis booked his place in the second round after a straight sets win over Eduardo Roger-Vasselin [EPA]

Ernests Gulbis is one to watch at Wimbledon, not just because he is coming through the rankings but because of the words that come through his mouth.

Last month, the 39th ranked Gulbis captured headlines after telling a British magazine that the top male players were boring and lacked character.

A brave statement from a player yet to prove himself on the main stage.

However, instead of being condemned for his comments, the Latvian received support from tennis legend John McEnroe, with world number two Andy Murray admitting he purposefully made his press conferences dull to avoid controversy.

Talking to Al Jazeera English straight after his first round victory over Frenchman Eduardo Roger-Vasselin, Gulbis was hesitant to add more to the discussion.

"It’s no problem you can ask me anything, it’s just sometimes I don’t like to repeat myself. I did it once, I think it is enough. It’s an old subject," he said.

Gulbis – a character known for his humour and strong personality – did live up to his reputation though, this time firing criticism at a different target - the Wimbledon organisers.

"Everybody loves Wimbledon. It feels special here. But there is a lot of stuff I don’t like for example the accreditation stuff – if you are not seeded you get three accreditations which is difficult to get in your family. It’s not fair," says Gulbis.

As soon as they talk to press they try to be these impeccable gentlemen who love everybody and everybody loves them. Life doesn't work like that

Ernests Gulbis,

"If you are seeded you can practice on any court as much as you want but if you are not you have 45 minutes a day and you have to practice on times which are not the best, in the late evenings. It’s small details but if you play a grand slam it makes a difference."

Day one and he is clearly not a man worried about upsetting anyone at the All England Club.

Clamming up

It seems the 24-year-old player, who one day aims to be in the world top five, would like to be thought of as anything but boring. This comes into his tennis too.

‘I’ve been practicing bad all week – but today Roger-Vasselin was playing good. It was not a boring match. There were some good interesting points."

When asked which players he thought had personalities, he does return to his controversial remarks.

"Everybody has a personality, the players have fun and joke - but they don’t open up. Locker rooms are full of fun and you can see fire in their eyes. As soon as they talk to press they try to be these impeccable gentlemen who love everybody and everybody loves them. Life doesn’t work like that," reasons Gulbis.

But with sport dictated by sponsorship deals and media coverage, is it realistic to expect players to say how they feel?

"You have to have a certain level of intelligence to allow yourself to joke around but in a smarter way. If you joke around stupidly you are going to get in trouble," says Gulbis.

What happens if you aren’t intelligent I ponder.

"Well read a book, go to school, educate yourself."

Provocative words just ooze out from these Latvian’s lips and this is why there will be many, myself included, hoping Gulbis goes very far in this tournament, and in tennis.

But if he does, there will be just as many checking he never resorts to the boring talk he so much detests.

Joanna Tilley is a freelance journalist working with Al Jazeera on the Sport website and reporting from the Wimbledon Championships. She has worked at Sky News, Sky Sports News and LBC Radio.

Follow her on Twitter (@joannatilley) or her website, http://mythoughtonsport.blogspot.com/

Al Jazeera is not responsible for the content of external websites.


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