Ernests Gulbis is into the top 20 for the first time. (Bertrand Langlois/AFP/Getty Images)
Last February, Ernests Gulbis' mom advised him to retire after her 131st-ranked son lost to No. 234 Michal Przysiezny in the first round of an ATP Challenger in Bergamo, Italy. "Give me one more month," Gulbis said he told her.
And within a month Gulbis had won the Delray Beach Open title as a qualifier, launching a turnaround that lifted him into the top 25 by the end of 2013. The 25-year-old Latvian continues to ascend: He reached a career-high No. 18 in this week's rankings after winning the Open 13, where he defeated No. 9 Richard Gasquet in the semifinals and No. 10 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the final.
''My long-term goal in tennis isn't to be top 20. It's to be No. 1,'' Gulbis, who is in the top 20 for the first time, said after Sunday's victory over Tsonga. ''Anything less than that wouldn't make me fully satisfied. I don't want to get to 30 years old, look back on my career and say I didn't make something of it. Everybody's looking for satisfaction in life. and my joy and happiness is based on my tennis career."
Gulbis, who moved ahead of such players as Jerzy Janowicz (No. 19), Kei Nishikori (No. 20) and Grigor Dimitrov (No. 22), is in action this week at the Mexico Open. Whether Gulbis can stay in the top 20 remains to be seen as he has a lot of point to defend during the North American hard-court swing.
In other rankings news:
• Marin Cilic inched up four more spots, to No. 25, after winning the Delray Beach Open, his second title in three weeks. Cilic is 18-4 this year.
• Alexandr Dolgopolov went from No. 54 to No. 38 after upsetting Fabio Fognini and David Ferrer to make the Rio Open final.
• On the American side, Donald Young (from No. 78 to No. 91), Jack Sock (No. 82 to No. 98) and Michael Russell (No. 85 to No. 106) tumbled while Delray Beach Open semifinalist Steve Johnson (No. 142 to No. 119) reached his highest ranking since last August.