Sunday, April 10, 2011

Into The Ravine

It has taken a long, long time for this to happen, but I have fallen off the Ernests Gulbis bandwagon. Ker-plunk. I am off. And the bandwagon is merrily wheeling away into the distance... actually, no. It's bouncing and jolting across interminable potholes and I'm pretty sure it's about to fall into a ravine. Hence the jumping off. I'm not going down with it.

If there has ever been a tennis player who lacked mental fortitude more than Ernests Gulbis, I bet I've never heard on them, on account of of they never would have won anything ever. Gulbis is very, very talented - ain't no one denying that. But he's also clearly lazy and extremely mentally volatile, and there is only so far talent can take you. He is the least disciplined player in all aspects of his game I have ever seen. And it is such a waste, because those crazy-talented players are the best kind to watch. In his way, he is like a skittish Svetlana Kuznetsova - and when Sveta is your benchmark for consistency, problems: you has them.

It's a little odd to write this article when Gulbis has just pulled what is technically an upset victory over also-skittish Alexandr Dolgopolov. But there is a difference between Dolgopolov's brand of crazy and Gulbis's, and that difference means that, in the long run, Sascha is going to be the more successful one. Bet you any money.

Sascha can go hot and cold in huge extremes - look at his match against Soderling in Australia. He got pummelled to pieces in the first set - 6-1 - and then suddenly he was on FREAKING FIRE and Robin Soderling was walking off the court in defeat, wondering what the hell happened, where the kid had come from and who he thought he was anyway. No one will ever call Dolgopolov the model of consistency. He's almost Safinesque that way - though far less explosive. He seems like a pretty chill guy, despite his massive swings. But he's taken his massive talent and, with his coach Jack, applied some discipline (albeit of the long-haired boho variety). And this year has shown that that works.

Gulbis, on the other hand? Anyone who saw the semis in Sydney knows just how much he can do and just how lazily he can throw it away. He has a huge talent but he seems too lazy to do anything with it. I wrote a few years back, when I was on that bandwagon, that I expected him to be top ten in a year - two, max. And he hasn't even come close. Not because he doesn't have the talent - he does - but because he doesn't seem to have the desire to do that much with it.

Gulbis may have won against Dolgopolov today. These things happen. But in the long run, Sascha is the one with the will to win, and if one of them is going into the top ten, it's Sascha all the way. Ernie may have won this battle, but Sascha will win the war.

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