Ernest Gulbis Interview - French Open, June 1

Posted on June 2, 2008

Ernest Gulbis Interview
Sunday, June 1, 2008
French Open

Q. How did you feel you played? It looked like you were at a pretty high level?

ERNESTS GULBIS: I think ‑‑ I mean, Llodra is, for me, one of the toughest opponents, because I lost to him twice already. You know, mentally he had the better, better place to be.

But I mean he's a tough opponent, because he plays strange tennis, you know, not like baseline runner type. He's serve and volley, and it was really tough to break him.

But first set, when I broke him first time, I mean, he doesn't play so well that game. But, I mean, during the match I think I played better and better when it was going. Third set I already got my feeling okay, you know, and it was much easier. So I'm happy about it.

Q. Do you feel you could have played any better? Didn't seem like you were making many mistakes at all.

ERNESTS GULBIS: I mean, the kind of tennis we played today, it was ‑‑ we should make many mistakes, because he played aggressive, and I tried to play aggressive, you know.

I had to attack mostly every his serve. Because if I just push it back, then he could ‑‑ he would finish it with a volley, no problem.

But I had to try to play to his legs and to see. But, yeah, I mean, I returned good, I served good, and that was the keys to the match.

The baseline thing was ‑‑ there was not so many rallies, long rallies in the match.

Q. When you say he's difficult to play, is it simply because his style is different, or do you feel under pressure that you constantly have to pass, or you said, hit a low ball towards his feet?

ERNESTS GULBIS: It's because he's a left hander, he has really good serve, he really good volleys, and it's always tough to play against the guy.

Because I played ‑‑ first three matches were against ‑‑ I mean, Blake was different, but Lapentti and Greul were baseline players, you know. It was longer rallies and I could get my timing much better.

But with Llodra it's very tough to get your timing right, so that's why it's tough.

Q. I'm Italian, and we choose clay thinking that it was the worst surface for you. Now maybe we have to rethink about the choice. What about this surface? Is your best surface maybe, or you grow up here? How you can explain the big improvement you did in the last months?

ERNESTS GULBIS: Well, going into this tournament, I didn't think that clay is the ‑‑ it will be the Grand Slam that I will have my best result until now, you know.

But I was practicing a lot on clay for the last two weeks, three weeks before Roland Garros. I didn't play Rome, I didn't play Hamburg. I just practiced, you know, and it paid off.

I wasn't playing well in the beginning. I mean, but I already last year I played the tournament in Persia. I lost first round, but already I was playing pretty good so I was pretty confident coming to this tournament.

I mean, I like every surface. I really love to play on clay. I grow up on clay, also. But, you know, I think that my game is suited more to maybe faster surface. That's maybe like this.

Q. Improvements?

ERNESTS GULBIS: Improvements, I mean, last three weeks which I practiced I really paid attention to my physical condition. I was practicing a lot, physically especially, and I change some things in my tactics in the game with my new coach.

He showed me ‑‑ I mean, because before, one year ago, I was playing pretty stupid on clay. I was going for the shots when I didn't need to go for the shots. I was playing hardcourt tennis on clay.

But on clay it's different, you know. This year I realize it and I change my game a little bit. I'm not trying to go for winners every time, only when it's possible, so it's paying off.

Q. Could you give us an impression of the strength of tennis in Latvia and whether what you are achieving is having any effect on tennis at home?

ERNESTS GULBIS: Well, in Latvia, tennis, I mean, I'm the first guy who is in top 100 from Latvia. There was one man who was 300 only before me.

You know, tennis in Latvia was never one of the popular sports, you know. We had hockey, basketball, football. But tennis was ‑‑ because we didn't have nobody, you know. Then what I first came to the top 100, people started to write about tennis, you know. They got more interested in it.

And now, I mean, I don't know what they write now, but people are really interested in tennis at this moment. After US Open when I reached the fourth round, it was ‑‑ I mean, the courts in Latvia are fully booked always.

If I go to practice at home, I don't get a court, really. (laughter.) It's full. There are a lot of kids and young players coming to practice, but the problem is that we don't have so many good coaches in Latvia, you know. That's the main problem.

Q. What is the financial strength of your federation at home?

ERNESTS GULBIS: Well, you can't compare Latvian tennis federation with the big country federations. I mean, anyway, it's a small country. Our country before, it gave 3,000 Lats, that's around five and a half thousand Euros per year to our tennis federation. That's ‑‑ with that money you can't organize two tournaments, you know.

So that's the deal. But slowly it gets better, you know. I mean, federation has some bigger sponsors and they're helping ‑‑ they're helping our second number in Latvia, Yushka, I mean, many years already.

Yeah, I hope that they're going to ‑‑ they're going to help some young players, also, because in Latvia it's really tough if you're a younger player and you don't have so much money, you know. It's not so many people willing to help. But I hope with some good results, with tennis getting more popular, I hope it will change some day.

Q. What was the key of the quality of your return today? Is it the fact that you already played twice against him?

ERNESTS GULBIS: Well, I knew the way he's playing, but I was playing against him twice on fast surface, once two years ago in US Open in qually, and then we played in one Challenger indoors, and it was very fast. There I didn't return so good, you know, and he was finishing me off with the volley pretty easy.

But on clay it was easier to return his serve. It's not so fast. Yeah, I mean, my coach told me that I shouldn't make the same mistake, for example, like Bolelli did, that he returned the serve and then he stepped back, you know. He stepped back two meters and he was waiting then. And then for Michael it was no problem.

But I was thinking to return and to step in and take ‑‑ to play aggressive against him at the net. Because if you loosen up a little bit, if you play too soft, then you have no chance.

Q. You're not brand new, but do you still get the sense that you're surprising some of the high‑ranked guys that they're not quite expecting the game they're getting from you?

ERNESTS GULBIS: Yeah. I mean, in the ATP Tour, I'm just ‑‑ last year, it was like my first year in ATP Tour, and first year it's always interesting, you know. It's a little bit ‑‑ second year is always tougher. I mean, that's what my coach said.

In first year I was just a newcomer, you know. Nobody knew me. Nobody knew the way I play. Nobody knew how to play against me. It was just ‑‑ I was just playing, you know.

And now people, players, they already know me a little bit. They know the way I play, so it's a little bit tougher.

But, I mean, still I didn't have no good results this year until now, you know. I was injured the first half of the year. It was really unlucky. I was in Australia. I mean, had three different problems at the same time, so I couldn't play. And then I started to play a little bit better in America, and it was tough matches, you know.

But, I mean, everybody told me to be patient and to wait, to practice, you know. But that's not the things that players like to hear, you know. They want to win faster, you know. Everything that should go their way.

Yeah, I was patient. I was practicing a lot, and now it's paid off.

Q. You're very well‑spoken, and I wondered how far you went in your education.

ERNESTS GULBIS: I finished high school in Latvia last year, and this year I'm thinking to go to university there in Latvia. But until now, I don't know where and what, because it's ‑‑ I have to find out, ask my father to find out, which university will be the best for me. If I'm maybe one month per year in Latvia then I can maybe send by e‑mails or something. We're still thinking about it.

Q. You've fought very well in this tournament, but yet you don't seem very thrilled. You seem very calm and mature. Can you explain how you manage that?

ERNESTS GULBIS: I mean, I'm not calm, and I'm not mature or something. I'm just ‑‑ I'm happy, you know. I mean, after the match, I don't ‑‑ I don't want to jump around and do crazy stuff. I'm just relieved that at last it's over. I'm happy about it. It's like, you know, a stone falling off from you.

But, I mean, I'm really happy. (laughter.)

Q. Can you tell, coming from a good academy with a well‑known coach like Pilic, how did you find your new coach? Was it a hard process, and who helped you?

ERNESTS GULBIS: Well, I was in the end of last year, I was in St. Petersburg and Moscow, in and those two tournaments and we had a really good contact with Youzhny's coach, Boris Sobkin. You know, me and my father, we both asked him what does he think, what can he ‑‑ can he find somebody for me maybe.

But first of all, we were searching for a fitness coach, you know. Because I wanted to go end of the year, offseason for preparation, and he found Carl Heinz Wetter. I mean, I didn't know that he's also tennis coach. He was former Jurgen Melzer's coach.

After the preparation month, when we practiced, then we went for Australia, I wasn't in the best condition, like I said. But the way he's working, the way ‑‑ I mean, he has really a lot of experience. He knows all the players on the circuit. I really liked to work with him. For me, he's a great coach.

Q. If you play Djokovic next round, how would you feel?

ERNESTS GULBIS: I feel good.