Back in 2007 a young fresh faced young 18-year-old Latvian burst onto the scene with a straight sets demolition job of ours truly Tim Henman, yes I am indeed British for those who didn’t know. For Henman this was indeed the twilight phase of his very respectable career and its true he was struggling for some form at the time. However, as John Lloyd said “I hope Tim will not get too many questions about his future, an athlete has to make that decision. He is going through a bad patch at the moment and he came up against a better player on the day. It was a brilliant performance from Gulbis, that is just pure and utter talent.” Quick, wiry, fearless, and with serious fire power and finesse to match, the talent really was evident.
Enigma’s can of course be quite hard to understand and usually unpredictable. Tennis fans will either love you or hate you or very often both. Especially in Ernests case. You’re probably wondering what do I mean by both, surely you support your favorite players and follow them no matter what? quite simply a player like Gulbis can invoke both plenty positive and negative emotions in you. The joy of seeing him play to his full potential and showcase all the tools he has in the shed and on the flip side, seeing him play like a brainless junior tennis player who could lose to players as low as 550 in the world or get bageled by a guy who struggles heavily to qualify for grand slams, ill let you work out who I am referring to, oh and sadly there is much more disappointment associated with him. What I am getting at is that it can feel hard to keep the faith at times, but when you see the real Gulbis turn up and put on top drawer displays it seems to swing the pendulum back to feeling the love again. My personal favorites would be the straight set victories over Tomas Berdych in 2012 and Juan Martin Del Potro 2017 both at Wimbledon and both enough to get you scratching your head again, is he about to win something big? Is he finally going to fulfill his potential? Or is he just teasing us like all the other times?
It’s been well documented how Ernests has lived his life away from his craft at times, so I don’t plan on going into too much detail. However, I will say this, the guy likes to enjoy life and has his own mind yet another reason fans will follow an enigma like this all the way into retirement. So often he will be refreshingly honest and expressive both during and after matches. He likes to give umpires and opponents a piece of his mind, both undeserved and deserved at times and generally isn’t trying hard to please or win fans. Sadly, the same cant be said about many of the other players who are too worried about their image, contracts and negative PR that they would rather say the correct answers than be honest with their thoughts and feelings.
If Gulbis retired this year due to lack of desire to compete any further on the futures or challenger tour or perhaps because he doesn’t want to waste any more energy trying to modify his forehand mechanics again, I would think he would be disappointed with his career so far, as would I and many of his fans. There have been so many wasted opportunities throughout his career and so much time wasted making bad decisions that 6 titles, reaching the top ten for a short time and only reaching one grand slam semi-final just does not seem enough for a man of his talent. If Marin Cillic can sneak a slam, there is no reason why Gulbis can’t.