Ernests Explains

Ernests Gulbis talks about his bad year, his coaches, and his future goal:

Ernests Gulbis:

– The results this year are not what everyone expected, including myself. I was plagued by various problems during the first half of the year. First of all – the knee. It was not a serious injury but it often happened that I couldn’t practice normally. Sometimes the knee would act up even after only an hour and a half of practicing. Now that’s all gone, I played 14 sets in three days in Davis Cup and didn’t have any pain.

– Why did you split up in winter with your coach at the time, Karl Heinz Wetter?

– We split in the US and I thought I wouldn’t need anyone for a while, I was tired myself. I did continue working with the physical fitness coach Etcheberry who works with Jankovic now. The main reason for the split was that we didn’t really suit, we had different mentalities. After some time had gone by, I realized that he can’t really help me. At the beginning, I had a wonderful coach – Niki Pilic who helped get started in the professional tennis. It was very important when I was young, Pilic was able to keep me disciplined so that I was practicing a lot, going to bed on time. It was constant work, Pilic was traveling with me, my schedule was arranged properly.

– Wetter didn’t care what you did outside the court?

– Wetter wasn’t controlling me that much but the small things added up. He’s a reserved person. As a coach, he couldn’t teach me anything new, at the end he was just repeating the same things, he didn’t really understand the problem from my point of view.

Actually I was looking for a fitness coach at the end of 2007, I asked Youzhny and his coach and they suggested Wetter. I met the Austrian for the first time in Latvia when he came here after the season had ended. Wetter promptly told me that he’s also a tennis coach, not just a fitness coach. We started working together but it turned out later that he’s just a tennis coach, he had no clue about fitness. He was just bluffing about it at the beginning, the reality afterwards proved it.

– But you played very well during last year’s Roland Garros under Wetter’s guidance?

– Yes but it was more because of lucky circumstances. I hadn’t won practically any matches on clay with him before and then suddenly I was in a good mood in Paris and I started winning.

– What can you tell about your new coach Hernan Gumy?

– Gumy was a very good player himself, he knows tennis inside and out, how to win, how to lose etc. Maybe it’s not the most important thing but I like new stuff at my practices. He showed me many exercises that I had never done before. Gumy told me some nuances in technique that helped me not to be late to hit the ball. It’s my biggest problem, the forehand, if I wasn’t sure (how to hit it) I would start to sort of fall backwards.

Gumy is a great man, I like him both on and off the court. My fitness now is in the hands of Ronan, a specialist from Israel who’s worked with Djokovic and the Israeli Davis Cup team. The first match this season where I felt good about my game was in the US Open against Andy Murray. Before that, I was late a lot, I wasn’t moving properly. Though there was a reason for that – I was working on my fitness a lot and I lost a bit of coordination, and it interfered with my play, I couldn’t get a rhythm.

– How is your fitness now after all the hard work you have done?

– I feel well physically now and, to say the truth, I was a bit surprised at myself. I played so many sets within 3 days during Davis Cup and I could cope with it. I’m working on my endurance, not with weights. The important thing is to have good legs, strong muscles. I would also like to lose a bit of weight, about 3 kg, now I have about 87 kg. The absolute numbers don’t matter as much as how many percents of body fat I can get rid of. If I do that I’ll feel even better and be even faster though I’m starting to feel good already now.

– How do you cope with losses?

– The most important thing for me is the game itself. If I do everything I can and still lose then it’s not so bad. If I practice badly and play badly and lose then it does feel sometimes that I’m never going to get out of the hole I’m in. When I do get out, like recently in the US, then it’s not so bad. That’s when I felt for the first time this year that I’ll be able to play good tennis again. During the first half of the year, I was uncoordinated, the ball wasn’t flying and I didn’t know how to get the feeling of the game back. You just have to keep thinking positively, keep working and then it’ll happen. The worst thing is to get and stay depressed. If you keep worrying about something during matches then you can’t play.

– How do you cope with the unending traveling, the change all the time?

– To be honest, when I’ve spent two weeks in Latvia I want to go off again, to play in tournaments and win. I think all sportsmen live and play for the feeling that you get when you win. It’s the high that counters all the problems, the flying, lack of sleep, practice.

– What aspects of your game need improving?

– Playing at the net, definitely, also I should be more patient. Though if I’m ready for the match physically I can play rather patiently and get involved in long rallies.

– What is your main weapon besides serve?

– Well, it has to be my forehand. Only I have to be sure and approach the ball well. If I don’t I get too cautious, I lose my balance and start falling backwards when I hit the ball, then I lose my whole game. For me it is so that if I successfully hit the ball with my whole arm and body at least a couple of times in a match then my arm gets more relaxed, I become more confident and I can play more freely. If it doesn’t happen then I get too tight at times. For players like me it’s important to play aggressively and move the hand freely.

– What’s your goal in tennis?

– My goal is to be in the top 5 in a couple of years. That’s my goal and I’ll try to reach it but I can’t promise anything. If I’m not able to do it then the goal will not be achieved, that’s my only goal at the moment. To be honest, it wouldn’t be very interesting for me to spend my whole career even as high as number 30. It’s not in my character, I want to achieve something more. If I do something I want to be one of the best.

– Do you follow what’s written about you in the press and on the internet?

– I will say honestly that I haven’t read anything about myself on the internet for more than a year and a half. There were some positives at some moments, that was kind of cool, but I’m distancing myself from all that and so is my father. Maybe my mother reads something about me now and then. I really don’t, I just play.

This is a translated interview from Latvian into English and was done by Native Latvian Evita on Mens Tennis Forums. Kind Regards.

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