Ernests And The Ideal Coach
Colourful Latvian into second week at Roland Garros
Latvian Ernests Gulbis, one of the ATP World Tour’s deep thinkers, is into the fourth round at Roland Garros after opponent Jo-Wilfried Tsonga retired during the first set of their third-round clash on Saturday. It’s been an unexpected fortnight for Gulbis, whose best run at a Grand Slam event, a semi-final finish, came in Paris in 2014.
The Latvian ended his partnership with coach Gunther Bresnik, who also works with Dominic Thiem, on the eve of Roland Garros and was just 4-10 coming into the event. He is now into the second week of a Grand Slam event for the first time in exactly two years.
“I’ve thought about [my coaching situation] a little bit before the tournament,” said Gulbis, who is looking for a coach who can focus on him exclusively. “I'm searching for not so much a tactical coach, but more of a technical coach, because I'm the kind of player who has problems maintaining his game and maintaining his shots clean.”
Gulbis, currently No. 80 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, cracked the Top 10 in June 2014. He has shown an ability to beat nearly anyone on any surface, as evidenced by his 16 career wins against Top-10 players and by his stunning upset of then-No. 1 Roger Federer on the clay of Rome in 2010. In his mind, rediscovering that level of play on a consistent basis requires doing the small things right on a daily basis. An attention to detail is what he looks for, above all, in a prospective coach.
“If I don't have a racquet in hand for a couple of days, I suddenly start to hit my forehand differently. So I need a coach to see those small changes.
“Tactically, I think my game is pretty uncomfortable for most of the guys, if I serve big and if I hit the ball big. So I think mostly I need to concentrate on my own technique and to make sure my own shots are clean.”
Because of those considerations, Gulbis’ ideal coach may not be a former No. 1 or a Grand Slam champion.
“To be honest, I don't necessarily think that a former player, no matter how good he is, is necessarily a good coach. I think that a good coach needs to have experience.
“I like that Gunter had a lot of experience, especially in the technical side of the game, because he spent probably one of the most hours on court of all the coaches on tour. He taught kids, he taught right-handed players, left-handed players, serve and volley, baseliners, juniors, and older players. So his understanding of the game is very big. This is what I liked in his experience.
“If you take a former player, they always look at the game from their perspective. They understand what they did, but can’t always give you solutions for fixing your game. I think if one thing doesn't work, you have to have a backup plan. And not just one or two, but many of them. This is what I'm searching for in a coach.”
In the fourth round, Gulbis will face Belgium’s David Goffin, his occasional off-season training partner.
“In the practices I couldn't beat [Goffin] because the guy is like a wall. I think he likes playing against guys like me, who are hitting the wall,” Gulbis joked.
“But if I remember right, I beat him once in Acapulco or somewhere. I don't remember exactly where, but I think I'm capable of beating him.”
If Gulbis can overcome Goffin, he could face Thiem, and his former coach, in the quarter-finals.