French Open: I Have a Spaceship—An Ernests Gulbis Reader


When Latvian Ernests Gulbis was asked whether he would want his younger sisters to play tennis, the outspoken pro offered some controversial commentary. He said, “Hopefully, they will not pursue a professional tennis career. Hopefully. Because for a woman, it’s tough. I wouldn’t like my sisters to become professional tennis players. It’s a tough choice of life. A woman needs to enjoy life a little bit more. Needs to think about family, needs to think about kids. What kids can you think about until [the] age of 27 if you’re playing professional tennis, you know? That’s tough for a woman, I think.”

Of course, this was only the latest in a long list of zingers from the glib, outspoken fellow. Here’s our Gulbis anthology:

MY NIGHT IN PRISON: In early 2009, Gulbis was arrested for the solicitation of a prostitute and spent a night in a Swedish jail. When IT asked him what he learned from the experience, he said, “What is there to learn? My only mistake is that I like girls. I don’t like guys, unfortunately. That’s my only sin. You all want sensation, something to grab onto and to write [about]. Most of the time it’s just not true … I mean, I meet with a nice girl on the street and I invite them to come over to my room, and then the police come and they put me in handcuffs and bring me [to] jail, so I spend one night in jail in Sweden. But it was a fun experience. No, really. I think everybody should spend one night in prison.”

I LIKE TO SEE WOMEN: When asked whether he liked joint tournaments where men and women both play to the regular ATP Tour events, Gulbis said, “I like joint tournaments, because at least you see some ladies around. Otherwise, the men’s tour can get on your nerves … [A joint event] has its minuses, because you don’t get all the practice courts. But I like to see women around. Women are a big part of my life and it makes me happy.”

I HAVE A SPACESHIP: When asked if he flies to tournaments in his billionaire dad’s private jet, Gulbis quipped, “Yes, and I have a helicopter, a submarine, and a spaceship.”

HAPPY I MADE MISTAKES: “I’ve done all the possible wrong things that you can do in a tennis career. But I’m very happy I made the mistakes … They were my mistakes … The mistakes are simple. After playing a good tournament, you get a week off. You can spend that week the right way, going for a one-hour run each day or going to the gym. Or you can do nothing like I did. You eat and drink whatever you want and [don’t] sleep at night.”

ON RAFA, ROGER, AND NOVAK: After losing to Rafa Nadal in the Italian Open, Gulbis said, “I thought I was the better player throughout the match.” Nadal responded, “If [hitting] every ball at 216 [kilometers per hour] or 220 [makes you] the best players, then perhaps he was the best player.” He also complained about Gulbis’ on-court demeanor.

As for Gulbis’ next opponent at the French Open—Roger Federer—Gulbis has said, “I respect Roger, Rafa, Novak, and Andy, but for me, all four of them are boring players. Their interviews are boring. It is Federer who started this fashion … I respect Federer, but I don’t like it that young players try to imitate him [in interviews].”

Like the similarly outspoken Polish player Jerzy Janowicz, Gulbis has taken special aim at Djokovic. “I don’t like Djokovic that much,” he’s said. “We’ve known each other since I’m 12. He was a normal guy then, but since his first big success he changed, his eyes changed.”

A WILD AND CRAZY GUY: Looking back to when he was 19, Gulbis said, “I was not really concentrated on tennis at all. I could go with friends until six in the morning, and in two days, I have a match. That is … a little bit crazy and stupid.”

WAIT, WAIT DON’T S— ME: Taking the initiative during a courtside spat with Gulbis, umpire Pascal Maria recently said, “Wait, wait, wait. Let me finish and then you give me s—.”

OH, CANADA: After being jeered at the Rogers Cup in Montreal, Gulbis blasted Canadian fans, saying they were “stupid” and had conspired against him. “They’re used to hockey, it’s okay. But I don’t understand why you need to clap for a double fault … I can’t call a thousand people stupid … Milos [Raonic] is a great player. But the rest of the [Canadian] guys play great in Canada because it’s like Davis Cup every match. People are clapping … before a second serve to provoke a double fault … The crowd is very well educated. They know exactly what to do … to screw up the other player.”

A LITERARY NOTE: Last year, Gulbis told Sports Illustrated’s Courtney Nguyen, “I’m reading Haruki Murakami, the Japanese writer. It’s a cliche. Everybody’s reading it and I always run away from books that everybody reads, from movies that everybody’s watching … I hope it doesn’t disappoint me.” BTW: Gulbis was named by his father—an investor and book collector—after Ernest Hemingway, one of his favorite authors, with the addition of an extra ‘s’ to give it a touch of Latvian flavor.

AN IDIOT LIKE ME: Gulbis once said, “I break around 60 to 70 a year. I felt bad after going to the factory where they make the rackets and I saw all the work they do. Everything is hand-made. They do everything for the players; they really think about what the players need, and then an idiot like me comes [along] and breaks them.”

AIN’T NO MOUNTAIN HIGH ENOUGH: In Madrid in 2010, Gulbis said, “I came here early [and] got used to the courts because they are not really straight. They are like playing on a mountain.”

IT’S ALL ABOUT MOTIVATION: After returning to the Top 100 with a title win at Delray Beach last year, Gulbis said, “I was really getting pissed to see who’s in the Top 100. There are some guys who … can’t play tennis. I don’t know how they got into the Top 100. I think I’m much better … It’s a motivation.”

ON DROPPING OUT OF THE 100: “I used to say that it’s really tough to get out of the top 100, you know? So I proved to everybody that it’s not so tough, it’s pretty easy.”