This is what happens when you practice. You start winning.
That's what unseeded Latvian underachiever Ernests Gulbis learned today in his impressive 7-6 (5), 7-6 (4), 7-6 (4) first-round upset of 6th-seed and 2010 finalist Tomas Berdych on Centre Court.
I think -- and I'm not alone in this -- that Gulbis has what it takes to be really great. I saw him take out James Blake in the bullring at Roland Garros in 2008, en route to the quarterfinals, and I've been a fan ever since. Okay, I admire more than his game. He's dangerously cute. Must be the day-old stubble and the mop of curly hair. He's got this playboy air about him.
Actually, he is a player, beyond the tennis court. The 23-year-old is the son of an investment banker, one of the richest men in Latvia, and he's often treated tennis like a hobby. He has preferred partying and soliciting prostitutes to putting in, as Brad Gilbert calls it, "the hard yards." He's ranked 87th in the world, and usually doesn't out of the first round in tournaments (this year alone, he's 3-10 in first round matches).
Well, today was different. And he knew it.
"I have been spending more time than ever on court and in the gym during this last month," he said. "It's really simple. You practice, results will come. You don't practice, results will not come."
Here's how Tennis.com summed it up:
Gulbis’ numbers speak volumes—30 aces, 73 percent first serves (winning 84 percent of those), 62 winners to 33 unforced errors—or they would, if he wasn’t quite capable of doing so himself. When the BBC’s reporter asked him how he had closed the match out, Gulbis quipped, ‘I’m well known for my mental strength, ask around.’
He's a funny guy, that Gulbis. He plays no. 136th in the world, Jerzy Janowicz of Poland, in the second round.
There will be no second round, and no potential re-match with Nicholas Mahut, for John Isner. The Marathon Man fell to Alejandro Falla in five sets, 6-4, 6-7(7), 3-6, 7-6(7), 7-5.
Isner admitted to having mentally lost his way since posting a string of victories earlier in the season, including one against world no. 1 Novak Djokovic at Indian Wells.
“Lately it's happening quite a lot, [where] I get out there in the match and I'm just so clouded. I just can't seem to figure things out,” he said.
I'm my own worst enemy out there. It's all mental for me, and it's pretty poor on my part.”
Isner said he needs to "go back to the drawing board" and start playing with more ease and freedom. "It's just like I'm wanting to win so much that I just lose control and I lose focus on the process."
John, may I suggest saying, "bounce, hit" as you watch the ball?