Tuesday, September 30, 2008

An Ernests Effort

You may be surprised to learn that one of the ATP's hottest up-and-comers, Ernests Gulbis, has a losing career record. At 34-36 (and 20-18 this season), Gulbis' record wouldn't necessarily impress anyone, but the just-turned 20-year-old from Latvia is turning plenty of heads in the world of tennis as of late, and impressing plenty.

After making noise at this year's French by flying into the quarterfinals before falling to Novak Djokovic, Gulbis has had disappointing draws at both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, facing Rafael Nadal and Andy Roddick in the second round of each tournament, respectively.

But just this week Gulbis has continued his meteoric rise in tennis, beating seeded Mario Ancic in Metz. His win over Ancic adds to the already long list of top players that Gulbis has conquered in his young career which includes James Blake (twice), Janko Tipsarevic, Tommy Robredo and Tim Henman, just to name a few.

(Photo by Web Del Tenis La Amistad via Flickr.com.)

Gulbis first garnered attention at the 2007 edition of the U.S. Open, when he advanced to the fourth round in his first Open appearance and third Grand Slam tournament. The run came after the Latvian had been winless all summer long (0-7), not winning a match since the first round at Roland Garros.

Gulbis validated his New York run by winning Mons (Switzerland) a few weeks after the Open, beating third-seeded Kristof Vliegen in the finals for his first ever ATP title. What was most impressive was that it was the first tournament he had not only been a seed, but the number one seed at that.

The most surprising and noteworthy, though, hasn't necessarily been Gulbis' wins (though those have helped, too), but instead his losses. Pushing Nadal and Roddick to four sets at the year's last two majors garnered plenty of attention for the world's 50th ranked player, and though he didn't reach the second week at the Open like last year, the Latvian has cemented himself as a part of the new generation of men's tennis.

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