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.
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.