Gulbis finally delivers to stun Berdych
Latvia’s Ernests Gulbis showed why he was once tipped as a potential grand slam champion on Monday when he knocked sixth seed Tomas Berdych out in the first round at Wimbledon.
The 23-year-old, who at times makes the game look ridiculously easy but rarely strings together two good matches, produced some scintillating tennis to beat the 2010 Wimbledon runner-up 7-6 7-6 7-6.
Czech Berdych, beaten by Rafa Nadal in the final two years ago, saved a match point at 4-5 down in the third set when Gulbis missed a backhand winner by millimetres, but he succumbed in the tiebreak when he netted a forehand.
Gulbis, seen as a rising talent a few years ago but who has never delivered on his full potential, is languishing at 87th in the world rankings but played some sensational tennis.
He said that he relished playing the big names.
“I saw the draw and I was really happy. I wanted to play first round against a tough opponent. It motivates me much more, especially first round. I really was really happy when I saw the draw,” he told reporters.
“If it had been somebody even higher ranked I wouldn’t have a problem with that also. I felt really, really good.”
Despite a game that has more than a touch of former world number one Marat Safin about it, Gulbis has chronically under-achieved since reaching the French Open quarter-finals in 2008.
Since then he has never been past the second round of a grand slam tournament.
However, with new coach Gunther Bresnik and some old videos given to him by his actress mum Milena, Gulbis appears to be getting back on track after reaching a low point where he wondered if he even had what it took to play at he top level.
“I don’t enjoy it, no,” he said of practising.
“But if there is a right person who can push me, and I understand why I need to do it, the results come. Slowly I start to understand what’s necessary.
“I have been spending more time than ever on court and in the gym during this last month. The game shows it, so maybe a click is going to happen.”
“In the clay season I started to watch some old videos of me playing like 2007 and 2008. I saw the videos. It was a completely different technique.
“I understood that I need to relax the swings more and just to play more relaxed because I was thinking too much.”
Whatever he did, it worked against Berdych.
“It’s really simple. You practice, results will come. You don’t practice, results will not come,” he said.
“I have been playing really well in the practices. In the practices I beat everybody.”
Another surprise was the exit of American number one John Isner, the 11th seed.
The man best remembered for his record-breaking 11-hour duel with France’s Nicolas Mahut at Wimbledon in 2010, was beaten 6-4 6-7 3-6 7-6 7-5 by Colombian Alejandro Falla.
Isner’s defeat means there can be no third successive Wimbledon clash against Mahut — a potential second round opponent for Falla if the Frenchman beats Paolo Lorenzi.
Italy’s Flavia Pennetta was the highest women’s seed to fall in the women’s draw on Monday as the Italian 16th seed lost 6-4 6-3 to compatriot Camila Giorgi.