Australian Open: Gulbis, this funny bird rising from the ashes

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Melbourne (AFP)

Private jet, big mouth, arrest, prostitutes and alcohol, but a tennis that took it to 10th place in the world. These times are over: it is an Ernests Gulbis assagi but 256th at the ATP that Gael Monfils will face in the 3rd round of the Australian Open on Saturday.

“I will never go back to Sweden: if you go out to meet girls, they immediately put you in prison!”, He commented after a night at the police station in Stockholm for soliciting prostitutes in 2009.

“If I start drinking, I’m going to drink until the early hours of the morning. I can’t go to a club and just have four beers. If I go out, I really go out all night!” journalists.

Coming from a rich family and endowed with a great tennis talent, he reached the quarter-finals of Roland-Garros in 2008 at 19 years old. But he had crossed a first air hole in 2012 before coming back even stronger in 2014: semi-final at Roland-Garros and World Top 10.

In 2018, contrary to what he had announced, he returned to Stockholm where he reached the final but bowed to Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Again, the aftermath is a long descent beyond 250th place in the world, the matches on the Challenger circuit, the second division of professional tennis, the qualifications of the ATP 250 tournaments.

So in Melbourne, where he went through the qualifications before eliminating a promising young generation player, the Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime (22nd in the world) then, on Thursday, the Slovenian Aljaz Bedene (55th), Gulbis savored at 31 years old the pomp reserved for the elite.

– “I shouldn’t say that” –

“The Challengers are not at the level, starting with the linesmen …” he said in a nagging voice. I shouldn’t say that, but you know, with age … ”

And even if he is married and the father of a family, in this last sentence points to the energetic that he was, he who went by private jet to the Aix-en-Provence Challenger in 2018.

Last September, it was in a van full of people that he did not know that he traveled from Paris to Orleans to participate in the Challenger.

“We recovered seven other people who were not players at all. They were just people who had ordered a taxi. If I had known, I would have taken the train or hired a car (…) At 18, it might have amused me a little more, but here I have a family and I prefer to spend time with them rather than driving for hours in a taxi full of people I don’t know ” , he said after his victory against Auger-Aliassime.

Now, at 31, he again wants to find a ranking more worthy of his talent.

“I want to get back to the Top 100 as quickly as possible, so every ATP point I score is important,” he said.

– “Stealthy moments” –

Monfils says that the man has changed.

“When he was younger, he had a little more stealthy moments … (smile heard), but he’s a great guy, really nice. He has matured on a lot of things,” said the Frenchman.

“He has a good image in the locker room, everyone finds him nice. We laugh with him, he is appreciated”, continues Monfils, not entirely reassured at the idea of ​​facing him in Melbourne, while he beat him in their two clashes on the main circuit.

“He likes big slams. He’s someone who likes big games: he made a half for Roland, he was in the Top 10. He beat the strongest, he knows how to manage them … “, Monfils analysis.

Today, it is the world No.10. But he remembers this quarter-final against Gulbis at the Kaohsiung Challenger in Taiwan in September 2018. “I hadn’t laughed. I had won, but it had been very hooked,” he said.

Gulbis enjoys it. To a journalist who begins his question with “you said”, he cuts the word: “Oh I said so many things, I try to be silent now …”



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