It's still a little soon to start reading the tea leaves for future guidance into Ernests Gulbis's career after his semifinal run at the Italian Open last week. One thing is for sure, the 21 year old Latvian who has been touted as the "next big thing" is finally, and I do mean finally, living up to that hype.
After several years of showing flashes of brilliance and flashes of awful, mixed in with a bad judgment call last year in Stockholm involving certain "ladies", Gulbis, with his powerful strokes and his candid yet funny demeanor, reminds me of another past champion -- Marat Safin.
I remember watching Gulbis take on Safin at last year's L.A. Tennis Open and couldn't help but notice the similarities in both players, playing and personality wise. In a previous post, I wrote the following, "This match was like the younger brother taking on the older brother...Both players tossed their racquets around and moaned their plights throughout the match. Gulbis has long been cited as a player to watch, but he's slipped a bit in the rankings, now at 62. From what I saw, he doesn't have a "shot" in his arsenal yet, and his mind games will need to be worked on if he wants a shot at the top tier."
Safin won that match as part of his '09 retirement tour and as result of his departure from the game, Safin's former coach, Hernan Gumy, signed on with the Latvian late last year. Since then Gulbis, who shared a similar Safin trait of not being too keen on practicing, has now embraced hard work along with toning down his mind games, especially when he loses points. In the past, Gulbis would immediately smash a racquet or scream in "pain". Now, as we saw in Rome, he seemed to brush off adversity almost with a shrug.
(Read the rest of the post here.)