New balls, please.

Hey Leppy! Any chance you can do a piece on Latvian tennis star Ernests Gulbis??

This was a request I received from a former colleague of mine in New Zealand. ‘Leppy’ is short for ‘leprechaun’, in case you were wondering. He’s a funny guy…

For those of you who haven’t heard of Gulbis, he’s currently ranked number 10 in the world, after reaching the semi-finals at Roland Garros on Friday – a fantastic achievement. To be honest, I hadn’t heard of him until quite recently either. I used to follow tennis religiously, but have been a little out of touch over the last few years.

Gulbis (‘swan’ in English) is quite an interesting character. He comes from one of the richest families in Latvia, and is the second of five children. Rumour has it that his father was bankrolling him until recently. Having spent around €8 million on his son to date, Daddy decided that it was time Ernests started taking care of himself – which explains why he’s started taking his sport more seriously and is moving up in the rankings.

Here are a few things I like about Gulbis:

1. He can play tennis – when he puts his mind to it.

2. He looks totally demonic when he plays.



3. He’s got a fine head of hair, as my mother would say.

4. For a Latvian guy, he’s pretty easy on the eye.

His recent comments about women becoming professional tennis players riled me though. Asked if he’d like his sisters to follow in his footsteps, he said that it was a hard life for women and that they should focus on family and babies. Latvian guys, eh?

He’s also known for liking a drink or ten, and was arrested in Stockholm in 2009 for ‘allegedly’ soliciting prostitutes. He has claimed that Federer, Nadal, Murray and Djokovic are boring in interviews – probably something nobody could accuse Gulbis of. Still, as long as he keeps hitting balls as well as he swings his own around, I’m more than happy to cheer him on.

The reactions of my students when I asked them if they were going to be watching were less than enthusiastic. “Who?”, “I don’t like tennis” and “I can check the results online.” Way to get behind the local guy, Latvia! So, on Friday, I headed to the local on my lonesome, hoping for a bit of an atmosphere.

I needn't have worried about finding a seat.

I needn’t have worried about getting a seat.

Of course, the match was on at 2pm, so a lot of people were probably still at work – this is where the joy of working for yourself comes into play. I ordered a pint of Leffe Brun and installed myself at the bar, where the young man beside me was eating his own body weight in soup.

The first two sets were disappointing. It seemed like Djokovic didn’t really have to try to beat Gulbis as he was intent on beating himself with the amount of unforced errors he made. Things got interesting in the third set, which Gulbis managed to win, but it was only a matter of time before Djokovic took the fourth and final set.

Oh well. Three pints of Leffe helped to ease the pain somewhat. Also, it seems like Gulbis is on the up and up so I’ll be supporting him from now on. Hopefully, the Latvians do the same.


About BerLinda

Adjusting to life in Germany, after living in Latvia for four years. Should be easy, right?
This entry was posted in Humor, Humour, Latvian people and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

122 Responses to New balls, please.

  1. Pingback: Where have all the Jaņi gone? | Expat Eye on Latvia

  2. “For a Latvian guy…” ha!

  3. NancyTex says:

    I’m too busy running an inventory of who the hottest footballers are in the World Cup at the moment to look at tennis players. 🙂

  4. Checking the results online is almost exactly like experiencing the match.

  5. Offtopic. Just read this and thought- Oh, my! Linda gonna love this!

  6. Karlis says:

    Before judging u shoud get at least full content – like, about women & tennis 🙂

    “Hopefully they’re not going to 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 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 you can think about until age of 27 if you’re playing professional tennis, you know. That’s tough for a woman, I think.”

    this comment sums up my toughts: “as a touring pro for more than a decade, can attest quite honestly how tough it is being on the road and doing the drills day after day in the pursuit of very exceptional results as a tennis player. He spoke for both sexes on how tough it is, and what you give up as the result of your talent and commitment. It was an informed opinion spoken with a good degree of intelligence behind it. Most touring pros do not make oodles of money, but the hours exacted to play are incredible for those who choose this path and stories of the minor leagues in tennis should be much more forthcoming on how daunting a task it is to succeed in this sport. Just look at 330 million Americans and see how many top flight tennis pros there are in this country.

    I really recommend get to know better Ernests via interviews- you won’t be disappointed 🙂

    • Expat Eye says:

      Of course I can understand him wanting his sisters to have a good life. It’s his assumption that all women want babies that I find patronising. And 27 is also plenty young to have your first child. People here get married and have children far too young, in my humble opinion. Probably why the divorce rate is so high.

      • Baiba says:

        You think so? I read somewhere in some statistics, that the average age, at what a woman in Latvia is having her first child, is 29. Do you really think it’s too early?

      • Expat Eye says:

        No, I think late-twenties/early thirties is the perfect age. I don’t think we really know what we want any earlier than that! If we ever do 😉 I thought the average age here would be younger – seems like a lot of people are already divorced and with kids by their thirties!

      • Ilze says:

        Aren’t you patronising right now (even though humbly)? 😉

      • Expat Eye says:

        Am I? 😉 I didn’t mean to be – maybe some people are ready for marriage/kids at a young age, but I think a lot of people aren’t. I’m still not 😉

      • Baiba says:

        Does it look really that bad? In my Freundeskreis 🙂 there are more women, who tend to have children around that age – early thirties, although there are some, who have started earlier. But I wouldn’t say, that they were not particularly ready – it’s a tricky thing, because in a way you never are. It’s allways different than what you thought it would be, that’s for sure.

      • Expat Eye says:

        I had to look up Freundeskreis 🙂 New word – thanks! And yes, I can imagine! Most of my friends are wrecks after having kids – totally takes over your life no matter how prepared you think you are! One was telling me just finding the time to have a shower was something she was so grateful for after she had her first! Luckily, the baby took to me and slept in my arms for hours when I went to visit – she was thrilled with the free time; I couldn’t feel my arms for the rest of the day 😉

      • Baiba says:

        As I said, it’s different, I’ve heard such horror stories too and was kind of preparing myself, but then she came into our life. Our daughter or as my husband said – demo version of a child:) And at the end it was much easier than I thought:) So, you see, it works both ways:)

      • Expat Eye says:

        Ha, I’ve been trying to skype my friend for weeks now – she just can’t get it together 😉 The one time we were both home and free, she managed to convince herself that Riga was 2 hours behind, not 2 hours ahead, so we missed out again! Yours sounds like a dream – if I ever have one, she/he will be just like that 😉

      • Baiba says:

        Oh, but You never know:) And they grow up and then you have to deal with a teenager:) But it’s only a few years… I have a friend, who has two sons, both about 18, two handsome young men actually. And she’s still a young, good looking woman, surrounded by these young, handsome men (can you sayu “surrounded”, if there are only two of them? Oh, well, there’s her boyfriend too, it makes three). Sometimes I look at them and think, that maybe I should have started much earlier too:) And having a child at early age has one more advantage – you take everything much easier.

      • Expat Eye says:

        Oh god, the dreaded teenage years! One of my students gives me nightmares telling me about her kids 😉 I’ve given her lots of new vocabulary though – the terrible teens, sulk, brat, grounded, this too will pass 😉

      • Baiba says:

        Now I had to look these words up:)

      • Expat Eye says:

        Ha ha! See? Posting comments on here is useful in many ways! 🙂

  7. Oh, this guy sounds like a peach! (NOT!)

  8. cheers to belgian beer! we dont have a tv here, so we dont follow it as much as back in dallas….i watched it for the faces. and judged them on how sincere their winning speeches were.

  9. Anna says:

    It always amuses me when any of the Baltics have a globally prominent …anyone, only because there are like, 5 people there. There’s a Russian joke even (I am gonna get killed, aren’t I?), that goes something like this: “After three months Russia has finally finished conducting its nation-wide census. Meanwhile, this morning from 8 to 8:30, Estonia completed a roll-call.”

    • Expat Eye says:

      Ha ha ha! Well, you made me laugh anyway!

    • Baiba says:

      Anna, that’s true, Russia is bigger (it’s actually hughe) than, as you said, any of the Baltics, but in my opinion we should be even more proud, that such small countries are having achievements like this – not only in sports, but for example our opera stars etc.

      • Expat Eye says:

        There you go, Anna – there’s one Baltic person who won’t kill you 😉

      • Anna says:

        Oh I agree re: pride and nurturing of it! But I just will never stop being surprised 🙂

      • Expat Eye says:

        Are you trying to get killed!? 😉

      • Anna says:


      • Anna, surprised of what? I believe talented people are distributed evenly on this planet. What makes difference is possibilities.

        It’s so much easier to be noticed in a small country but it takes so much more efforts because there is no local competition. Russia has enough local tennis players and only the best+richest goes further (tennis is expensive sport, not for poor talents). In Latvia even that is not enough because you don’t have a big choice who to play with. That’s why we praise them more.

        Same with the music. You can sing Latvian and you’ll get few fans, if you’re really great like Brainstorm- you’ll get pretty big attention. But if you want a really big stage singing Latvian is not enough. In Russia singing Russian is enough to get full stadium. Even if the whole thing sucks (we know those people, they’re coming here as well).

      • Emmi says:

        Russian music is not that bad. you just should select the good stuff-===))) btw latvian music could also get famous if people had decent sound. brainstorm is a bit famous. its kind of sad people dont stick to their own language and always have to sing in english. I used to love one swedish band while they sang in swedish but after they switched to english I just dont appreciate it anymore. I love music in rare languages I dont understand, my favourite would be bulgarian, romanian and ukrainian

    • I bet 3 months for Russia wouldn’t be enough, if we mind all the vast Siberia and tundra. 🙂
      And yeah, I’d agree with baiba – we are small but therefore proud of all our achievements. For USA it would be like – meh, another great athlete, have plenty of them. For us – he’s a man-god who puts latvia on a world map of sports. 🙂

      • Expat Eye says:

        Yeah, same as Ireland! We’re very small too so when we produce someone world-class, we’re proud!

      • Emmi says:

        I hope the world will not associate my country with conchetta wurst from now on…. most people dont know much about Austria but it never bothered me personally.

      • Emmi says:

        when Ireland produces world class… like jedward and dustin the turkey? hehe)) good luck with that!
        in all honesty though…. I feel as if good authentic bands that sing in various languages never get no attention because they are marketed enough. I dont mind the english domination in the music world but I also feel like there are so many talented english speaking singers/bands who are overlooked because everything is commercialized

      • Expat Eye says:

        Ireland has an excellent track record at Eurovision actually! Maybe it’s before your time though 😉 And don’t even get me started on Dustin and Jedward. Massive SIGH.

      • Anna says:

        Hahaha that’s awesome!

  10. Inita Lawrie says:

    Love tennis, love Gulbis, love your blog.. so glad you didn’t write much negative about him :-))))
    I think a lot of information about him is exaggerated and his words taken out of contest and I think he is very talented, intelligent and funny!

    • Expat Eye says:

      Ha, I don’t know that much about him! Just what I’ve read and what a couple of people have told me who’ve met his family – small country, Latvia 😉
      I really hope he does well! I think it’s a great achievement for him and for Latvia!

  11. June says:

    I’m sorry I missed that match against Federer. I’ve been missing my tennis since I left home. I find it hard to find games online and I watch so rarely I don’t want to pay for a subscription. I feel I’m missing the new wave of players coming through. This guy looks interesting!

    • Expat Eye says:

      Yeah, I feel very out of touch since I left Ireland as well – I never missed Wimbledon at the very least! I’ve hardly heard of most of the guys in the top ten these days – but I’ll definitely be watching Gulbis from now on!

  12. Emmi says:

    Hey Linda! Went to Latvia for a few days to visit my friend. great weather, awsome food, nice architecture and some of the most handsome men Ive ever seen. I guesss for a few days its just great dunno if Id want to live there though….

    • Expat Eye says:

      Where did you see these handsome men!?

      • Emmi says:

        Ive been in Riga and Jurmala for 3 days altogether. maybe I have diffrent beauty standarts? or maybe its the fact that I really like pale men with colorless hair even if they do look boring sometimes but out of three latvian guys I met at least one was my type. btw I dont mean to be rude but Ive been in both UK and Ireland and to be honest not that many good looking people there. british men and women look somewhat … unhealthy. dunno where you get your high standarts from… I could understand how an Austrian, swedish or German girl would look at a Latvian and say meh we got better boys. but UK? oh I dunno… so many weird looking dudes there. however their sweet and charming personality makes up for it. Austrian and german boys are the hottest but brits and Irish are the nicest (but really lots of beer bellies and roten teeth). and yeah Latvian guys look a lot better than them. I hope I did not offend you. Latvian women look very nice too.

      • Expat Eye says:

        Ha, no of course you didn’t offend me! I wouldn’t rate Irish people as the best looking in the world either! I think we’ve (for the most part) got charm, which goes a long way to make up for it 😉 I’ve travelled a lot and I’ve been to some countries where I’m just like WOW all the time 🙂 Latvia isn’t one of them! The Dutch, the Germans, the Swedes, the Danes… (sorry, I haven’t been to Austria – yet!) – so many good-looking guys. I think maybe the problem with the guys here (if you can call it a problem) is that they’re so outnumbered by good-looking women – for every one semi-decent looking guy you see, there are at least 20 good-looking women so you tend to notice them more – and compare the guys unfavourably! But, of course, I do know some good-looking Latvian guys! Sounds like you did well with your one out of three ratio 😉 Glad you had a good time! (Oh, and I quite like English and Welsh guys – but I think it’s more the accents than the looks) 🙂

  13. linnetmoss says:

    Definitely a nice head of hair on him. But those comments about women and babies. He sounds like a jerk. I’d rather have a conversation with a Leffe or three.

  14. There was huge fan activity when he played. You just didn’t look in the right place called Twitter.

    First of all- you’re right it was the middle of the working day.
    Second- tennis is not quite the most watchable sport (which explains why Latvians are not that much into the football either- 90 minutes of running over the huge pitch and quite often it gives a nil of a result).
    Third- you already know how little we’re into bar/pub culture in general. We prefer to watch sports at home alone or with few closest friends/neighbors. Of course there are exceptions but in general. E.g. yours truly goes to pub… ammmm… I don’t know… like twice a year or something like that.

    • Expat Eye says:

      Wow, twice a year 😉 Yeah, obviously it’s far more the done thing in Ireland – everyone gets together, more of an atmosphere – watching it at home by yourself is fine but I find it a bit dull! I want to comment and cheer (and yes, have a few beers) 😉 And tennis is fabulously watchable – how dare you 😉 I’ve been to several ice hockey games and cheered on Dinamo even though I didn’t really have a clue what was happening most of the time 😉
      And I hate Twitter 🙂

      • You can comment and cheer at home either. Plus you may have more beers because after the game you don’t have to go anywhere (and yeah- it’s 3- 5 times cheaper as well).

      • Expat Eye says:

        Yeah, but there are no Latvians in my flat and I wanted to watch it with a local crowd 😉

      • Baiba says:

        We do cheer for our Ernests! And I really tried to watch tennis once, but I really don’t understand the whole thing. Mostly I’m thinking something like “Why the hell did the guy A get these points, while from my perspective the guy B should have got them?!” So I gave up… But You are right, watching a game in a bar or a pub is grat, I still remember the hockey game against Russia in 1999:) We won. Aaaahhhh, what an atmosphere. And I kind of miss the good old Ai, Karamba on Pulkveža Brieža street…

      • Expat Eye says:

        Ha ha! To me, tennis is so much easier to understand than, say, ice hockey – but I grew up with tennis, played it for years as well. I guess it’s just not that popular here. I also don’t really get basketball 😉
        Don’t think I’ve heard of Ai Karamba! When did it close down?

      • Baiba says:

        Oh, it was a long time ago, I suppose at least 8 years ago or so. Now there is the K.I.D. restaurant in that place. Never been there, I suppose I liked the old one too much:)

      • Expat Eye says:

        Never been there either – but I do like their slogan 🙂

      • Mārtiņs says:

        Why didn’t you invite Latvians? Garlic bread + Užavas beer and you could get Latvians to support Gulbis and cheer the game!
        Come on, you have a whole lot of Latvian e-mail collection from wordpress:)

        About the game being watchable. I remember when I and my friend were watching teniss on Eurosport when women in short skirt played while his wife was out for some hours. That is what I call watchable. Also erotic sounds Ah-uh-Ah-Uh while strikinga ball – have you paid attention to this “phenomenon” , particularly on women’s league? Bth way I remember a case were one guy was forced to leave for imitating orgasmic sounds of the tennis players.
        Top 10 loudest grunters’s-tennis/

      • Expat Eye says:

        Ha ha! Yeah, I hate the grunting – I think it’s unnecessary and takes away from the game, though I can see why a guy would like it 😉

  15. Normally I insert a comical aside, but this time I criticism. Where is the national pride, Latvia? You have to support your guy. Shameful.

    • Expat Eye says:

      I suppose some people were probably excited – maybe even these guys were ecstatic on the inside but just had good ‘Latvian Face’ 😉
      If he’d been Ernest O’Gulbis, half of Ireland would have been on a VERY long lunch on Friday I think 😉

    • eNVee says:

      Easy, easy man! We do support him. Not all people are interested about tennis, like it happens with any other sport, ya know. As Linda said – it was a working day and not everyone is able to spare few hours in the middle of it. I was watching the game online in my office. 😉

    • wasd says:

      We do most of things silently and little or no emotion that others espceially unknown to us may observe. Unless we are really pist off about something. We cheer internally, in our homes, offices.

  16. Must say I’m not much into tennis (or any other sport, if I come to think of it), and I kind of hear of Mr Swan for the first time. If I heard of him earlier, I might just totally forgot about that. Anyway, glad Latvia has such a good tennis player and wish him the best of luck and all.
    A little bit off topic, but it’s kind of funny that Latvia has Gulbis aka swan for a tennis player, while we have (not so well known obviously) Mr Berankis which literary translates as ‘a person with no hands’ for a tennis player.

    • Expat Eye says:

      Ha ha ha! Maybe he should have been a footballer 😉

    • Besides swan on the tennis pitch we have Natalie Gulbis on the golf course. Well, she’s second generation American but still- with Latvian roots. And she’s damn hot either.

      Due to this I’m bit worried about foreigners perception of the second name- Gulbis. We have strongman Rolands Gulbis as well and he’s not related to both (same like those both between themselves). So… I hope sport fans won’t think we have only one second name 😀

  17. MrJohnson says:

    I can’t imagine playing tennis under the blazing sun..women should definitely be encouraged to play tennis not because of equality or whatever but because some of those tennis women are extremely sexy.

  18. He stole my hair!!!

  19. pollyheath says:

    I’ve got to admit, I like tennis only for the outrageous faces they make. Too bad about Gulbis, sounds like his cushy, parent-funded life made him too lazy to be really great!

  20. Daina says:

    Agreed that the stuff he said about women was idiotic. However, with his tennis playing he is helping put Latvia on the map, which is always good. A friend was just in Paris, and someone there asked from what country she was. Her answer, “Latvia,” and the person immediately asking said, “Gulbis!”

    • Expat Eye says:

      Ha ha, that’s great! Yeah, Latvia’s doing well at the moment – especially for such a small country. Beach volleyball, tennis – it’s brilliant for the country!

    • Idiotic was the way journalists turned it out. His idea was that he don’t want HIS SISTERS to be PROFESSIONAL tennis players. Professional sport rarely gets well together with the family and/or with health. So he don’t want his sisters to choose this path.

      • Expat Eye says:

        Yeah, but most tennis pros are basically finished by the time they’re in their late 20s. Still plenty of time for all of that!

  21. freebutfun says:

    Sports, huh?! I may have to start watching tennis now!

  22. lizard100 says:

    ‘beating the Moldovans at tennis’ maybe getting a sequel?

  23. CatLady says:

    A few years back, while commentating Wimbledon, John McEnroe said of Gulbis that he’s a talented guy. However, proceeded to say that he’s either not working hard enough, or isn’t disciplined enough to achieve much more (than he had at the time).
    Shame that Gulbis waited for so many years to show what he’s capable of. Sadly he’s heading towards the ripe age of 26, in sports terms that’s old. Federer was at his peak between 2002-2009 (born 1981 or 1982, I think).
    Even if Gulbis does play the best tennis of his life from now on, he’s unlikely to reach the heights he was so very clearly capable of reaching.

    • Expat Eye says:

      Yeah, he’s getting on a bit in tennis terms – still at least he’s getting there now. Even if it is a little late! 😉

      • CatLady says:

        Don’t get me wrong – I’m glad he’s done so well. I’m just pissed off that he’s not achieved the potential his talent could’ve allowed him to. You know, like – wasted.
        Kind of like when the likes of Amy Winehouse perish – sad and angry both at the same time – for them, and for the world who didn’t get to see “what could have been.”

      • Expat Eye says:

        Amy Winehouse was a real shame.
        I guess with Gulbis, you could explain it using “The Latvian Factor” – it’s taken longer than expected, it’s cost more than expected, but he’s getting there in the end 😉
        Looking forward to Wimbledon!

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