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Ernests Gulbis gets his teeth into vampire issue

Ernests Gulbis plays a double-hand backhand stroke
by Dan Imhoff
Monday 23 June 2014

Never one to shy from speaking out about a perceived lack of personality in the modern men’s game, Ernests Gulbis will obligingly elaborate with wit and honesty, even if a mis-hearing gives a question an amusing spin.

Take the Latvian’s post-match press conference after emerging from a battle of the Baltics against Estonian Jurgen Zopp.

Following the No.12 seed’s tight 7-6(7), 7-5, 7-6(10) opening win over the qualifier, ranked No.272, he was asked whether he agreed with John McEnroe to get rid of umpires to allow players to call their own shots.

“Get rid of vampires?” Gulbis asked.

“Have players call their own shots,” the reporter replied.

“I am for freedom of choice and I am for, let's say, what's on my mind. I want to be able to say it. I don't like when people go for popular decisions and popular answers and everybody is trying to be the nice guy. Not everybody is, you know,” Gulbis went on to explain, before the word mix-up became apparent. “Umpires? I thought something else. I thought vampires in the way the people who are surrounding and sucking the energy out of players. That's what I meant.

“Umpires, no. Without umpires, it wouldn't work. I thought it was vampires.”

Tired of the cookie-cutter responses of many of the top players, he got his point across.

And with the whole 'vampires-umpires' issue cleared up, Gulbis was left to focus on a showdown with Ukrainian Sergiy Stakhovsky, the man who felled Roger Federer last year.

Having finally lived up to his long-earmarked potential last month to reach his first Grand Slam semi-final at Roland Garros, Monday marked the first time Gulbis has entered Wimbledon as a seed.

His surprise run to the semi-finals in Paris – where he took down Federer and Tomas Berdych en route – was only the second time he had progressed to the second week of a major. Still, he was no mug on the grass, having taken down then-No.6 seed Berdych in three tie-break sets in his Wimbledon first round two years ago.

On Monday, a burgeoning self-belief shone at the business end of each set. He saved two set points in the first-set tie-break and four in the third. He would need three match points of his own to get the job done, but a straight-sets result could well have been two sets to one down, or worse, a narrow straight-sets defeat.

It is this newfound commitment he largely attributes to his coach and a self-proclaimed coming of age. “One thing what he change and he help me to change is the forehand. Second thing is probably a little bit discipline of practice and amount of practice, which increased a lot,” he said.

“The previous coaches always found me in a much worse state of mind. Gunter [Bresnik] helped me a lot, but I was ready to be helped.”

The question of whether a woman could be his coach, in light of Andy Murray hiring Amelie Mauresmo, was inevitable.

“Listen, my coach is Gunter. Unfortunately he's a man. I would wish it's a beautiful lady,” he grinned.

Gunter or a beautiful lady would be fine. Just no vampires.

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