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Gulbis Eyes Gluten Smackdown With Djokovic

Paris, France

Gulbis© AFP/Getty ImagesGulbis calls for healthy lashings of gluten in his diet.

Ernests Gulbis' semi-final showdown with Novak Djokovic at Roland Garros is shaping up as the Gluten Smackdown.

It's well known that Djokovic attributes much of his surge since 2011 to a gluten-free diet. But the charismatic Gulbis says he’s happy to load up on all the gluten he can get.

Asked why he had taken so long to realise his potential after reaching his first Grand Slam semi-final with a 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 win over Tomas Berdych, a playful Gulbis pointed to a change in his diet, specifically plenty of products containing gluten, which many tennis players now spurn.

"What took me so long? I think I was eating wrong. I had the wrong diet. Everybody was talking about this gluten-free diet. My diet is full on gluten. I like a lot of ketchup, a lot of unhealthy stuff so there is a balance which I found in the last couple of years," Gulbis said with a smile.

One of the most colourful personalities on tour, Gulbis again had fun with reporters during his media conference. Consider this exchange...

Q:  Are you trying to make up for lost years?
A:  Money wise or...  (Laughter.) Cash wise, definitely.  I need to earn some money to break even.

Q: Don't you have a rich father?
A:  Yes.

Q: So you don't need money.
A:  I need money, to [make] it on my own.

Watch Gulbis Interview (Courtesy: French Tennis Federation)

Gulbis, semi-seriously, also spoke about improving his mental approach to the game and his dedication to becoming a better player. The Latvian first entered the Top 50 of the Emirates ATP Rankings in 2007 but would slip outside the Top 100 (in 2012) before he first cracked the Top 20 (in February this year). He is currently at a career-high No. 17 and could break into the Top 10 if he keeps winning at Roland Garros.

“Age doesn't come alone, so hopefully I get more and more experienced. A lot of things change in my understanding, and it just came together. Two years ago when I first came to Gunther's [coach Gunther Bresnik) place in Vienna to practise he didn't deal with those kind of problems that my other coaches were dealing with three, four years ago.

“I missed a practice once with Gunther because I had a long night. I called him 7:00 in the morning, and I said, Gun, I cannot come to practice. He understood it. It was once. He can tell you this.

“With other coaches… [The] first time when Hernan Gumy came to Latvia to prepare for Davis Cup, [of the]  eight days of preparation, I missed five days of practice. So, you know… you evolve.

“You start to understand, Okay, first, make one step.  Don't miss five days of practice.  Just miss three days of practice and then two days and then one and then nothing. So it's a process.”

Gulbis will take a 1-4 FedEx ATP Head2Head record against Djokovic into their semi-final.

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