What you should know about Ernests Gulbis, who beat Roger Federer in Paris
PARIS -- Ernests Gulbis is grabbing headlines for all the right reasons after his 6-7 (5), 7-6 (3), 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 upset of No. 4 Roger Federer in the fourth round of the French Open.
Ranked a career-high No. 17, Gulbis has always been a combustible talent to watch since making the quarterfinals at Roland Garros in 2008. But the 25-year-old Latvian has been consistently solid this season, winning two titles -- both in France -- and riding an eight-match winning streak into the French Open quarterfinals. With his victory over Federer, he's won his last five matches against seeded opponents at the Grand Slams.
Gulbis has attracted media attention for his racket smashing and criticism of the game's most accomplished players, in addition to everything from sex, drugs and, well, rock 'n roll (and women, as we found out earlier this week). Here's what you need to know about the most interesting man in tennis, who is finally backing up his bluster with results.
He comes from a filthy-rich family: His family is rumored to be the third wealthiest in Latvia. His father, Ainars Gulbis, is an investment banker and his mother, Mileña, is an actress. He was named after Ernest Hemingway.
He was a child actor: Here's a clip of him acting with his mother. The hair is a lot shorter, but his wide smile is still the same:
He used to train with Novak Djokovic in Germany: Gulbis and Djokovic worked together at Nikki Pilic's academy in Munich as teenagers. Even then, Gulbis saw that Djokovic was on a different level.
"At 13 and 14, he was really dedicated," Gulbis said last week. "I used to practice and then that's it. I would go to my room, I eat Nutella, I play PlayStation. He went to stretch and to go for a run. This was the attitude. He had the talent and the hard work. I had just the talent."
In 2009, he spent a night in jail under suspicion of soliciting a prostitute in Sweden: He was pretty nonplussed about it.
“When I meet a girl, I don’t ask her what her profession is," he said. "I don’t ask if she’s a hairdresser or something else. I just meet her. And she meets me. She maybe doesn’t ask what I’m doing. Anyway, if she does ask, I usually lie; I say that I do nothing or I’m a musician or something. Suddenly, the police come and take me to jail, so I spend the night in jail for nothing, really nothing. So I’m upset with the Swedish government. It was very funny. I think every person should go to jail once.”
He breaks a lot of rackets: It's not a proper Gulbis match unless the Latvian eviscerates at least one racket. And with all that practice, he's very good at it. There's no better racket smasher in the game. On Sunday, he threw his racket to the ground to crack it and then stepped his foot through it to finish the job. Then he calmly handed it to a young fan and went about his business.
"I have to break at least one racket on every court of the world," he joked after the match. "Otherwise, I would show too much disrespect to Paris center court and I cannot allow this."
He thinks the ATP's Big Four are "boring": He came under fire last year for saying he thought Djokovic, Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray gave boring interviews. On the whole, Gulbis wants to see more spit and fire in the men's game. He told SI.com last year, "For sure, it’s too much [civility]. I respect them. Great for them. Everything works for somebody. But I miss some fire. I miss some fire that people have in boxing or basketball or hockey. People like it and it makes it more competitive. Here, it’s like, 'He did a great game and I was a little bit better.' No. It’s bulls---. 'S---, I won the match, I kicked his ass, he was worse than me, that’s it, go home.' That’s the attitude tennis is missing."
His forehand is ugly and he doesn't care: Is it disco? Is it magic? Is it ... necessary? With his forehand shooting out like Peter Petrelli before every swing, Gulbis' forehand is the ugliest shot in the men's game. But he doesn't care. After much tinkering over the years, Gulbis says this is just his natural swing, and that old videos of him practicing as a kid would verify that.
He's tennis' version of The Dos Equis guy: There's no better interview in men's tennis. Gulbis has his opinions, he doesn't apologize for them and if you ask him a question, he answers honestly.
"I have to say what I think," he said. "I cannot speak what I don't feel. For me, it is the most easy thing in life just to speak the truth. Then if you lie, then you start to forget what did you lie, and then you go into lie and lying more. So for me it's real easy to speak what's on my mind. Even take the consequences. I like it."
And he's philosophical in his own way, too. Here's how he explained the secret to his success after his big win over Federer:
"[What] I understood is that I start enjoying things much more if I did my work. I don't enjoy life to the fullest if I didn't do my whole life, my job. This is for everybody. We did something good, we work hard for one week and then for sure on Saturday and Sunday we can enjoy that Saturday and Sunday much better. Or if we stay at home, drink beer all day and not do nothing, Saturday and Sunday, what, it comes again? We get drunk again. It's only after hard work we can enjoy life. That's what I found out."
Below is the full post-match press conference, and for more on "The Most Interesting Man in Tennis," read our Q&A with Gulbis from last month in which he talks about his love for books, the opera, Einstein and more.
He finally dedicated himself to tennis two years ago: Gulbis thoroughly admits that he thought his talent alone was good enough to get him to the upper echelons of the game, and making the quarterfinals of the French Open at 18 didn't do much to dispel that notion.
But after putting in uneven results and not taking his training seriously, he cleaned up his personal life to try to maximize his tennis. The results weren't immediate -- he was ranked outside the top 130 at the start of 2013 -- but he's found consistency in his game, lifting him to a career-high No. 17. His mom told him to quit tennis last year: Last year Gulbis' ranking was so low that he actually didn't get into the Australian Open. Instead of trying to qualify, he stayed in Europe to play some Challenger events and won one match in two tournaments. After losing in the first round in Bergamo, Italy, his mom told him to quit the sport. A few weeks later he won an ATP 250 event in Delray Beach, Fla., as a qualifier and pushed Rafael Nadal to three sets at Indian Wells. He's been climbing ever since.