Outspoken Ernests Gulbis is back in the spotlight. The mercurial Latvian has won an alarming 13 straight matches which includes a Delray Beach title (as a qualifier) and then five matches this week at the BNP Paribas Open. The 24-year-old who has some of the explosive power on the tour now faces Rafael Nadal today, and the Gulbis sounds ready for the challenge.
“I think the way I play right now, that should make a difference. I believe that I can win,” Gulbis said Monday after beating Andreas Seppi.
Gulbis, though, is 0-4 against Nadal, but has won at least a set in three of those losses. And despite the poor record against Rafa, he feels it’s a good match-up for him.
“I like to play against him because his ball and his heavy spin, it’s good for my timing,” he said. “I don’t like when the opponents hit flat, deep balls. I like the opponents hit spin, high balls. It’s easier for me to control them. So honestly I like to play against him. I just wasn’t able to keep ‑‑ let’s say I had close matches. I had three sets twice, and just in the third set lack of experience, lack of fitness, lack of everything, you know, and then he just broke me down. You know, when I play him now I know how he plays. And of course he’s a great player, but I believe ‑ honestly I believe ‑ that if I play my best game I can beat him.”
While the odds are against him, Gulbis is quick to point out that right now he’s never played better. He also thinks that if he’s striking the ball the way he has been he’s almost impossible to beat.
“I’m telling you, if I’m going to hit a winner it’s gonna be a winner,” he said. “Doesn’t matter if it’s gonna be Nadal or whoever. I’m going to go for my shots, and I want to see that. Of course it’s maybe is going to take me more than one shot. Maybe it’s going to take me two shots. But I’m going to be ready for it. One shot one corner, one shot other corner. I want to see him get it.
“Reality is that I won 13 matches in a row and that I’m playing Nadal.”
Reality will set in later when Gulbis faces 2-time Indian Wells champion Nadal in maybe the biggest match of his career. Nadal, who has reached the semifinals or better the last seven years at Indian Wells, is playing just his second hardcourt match in almost a year.
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