Ernests Gulbis, the temperamental Latvian with a private jet and a mind of his own, launched a breathtakingly candid attack on the game’s big four before Gaël Monfils knocked him out of the French Open in a classic four-setter.
Speaking to L’Equipe, Gulbis said: “I respect Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray but, for me, all four of them are boring players. Their interviews are boring. Honestly, they are crap chiants. I often go on YouTube to watch the interviews.
“With tennis, I quickly stop. It is a joke. It is Federer who started this fashion. He has a superb image of the perfect Swiss gentleman. I repeat, I respect Federer but I don’t like it that young players try to imitate him. When I hear them answer like Roger, I am terrified by phrases like: ‘I had a little bit more success at certain moments and that is how I won.’
“If I win, the guy on the other side of the net, I have sent him home. That is the reality. I do not want to hear in an interview a guy — who I will not name, but who I know well, that he thinks all his opponents are arseholes — putting on an act.”
Gulbis, ranked 40 in the world after lurking outside the top 100 for longer than his talent should have allowed, said he did not care if he were now labelled “a bad boy”. “I don’t care,” he said. “I have no interest in appearing nice. On the court, it is a war. Off court, no problem. I have a good relationship with most of the players. But I want to say what I think. And if my prognosis is that I am going to win the match, it doesn’t bother me to say so.
“I would like interviews to be more like in boxing. OK, maybe those guys are not the most brilliant on earth but, when they face each other down at the weigh-in, they bring what the fans want: war, blood, emotion. All that is missing in tennis, where everything is clean and white with polite handshakes and some nice shots, while the people want to see broken rackets and hear outbursts on the court.
“The system is much too bureaucratic. It would need that the top players agree to change things. But they are rather happy that the smaller players are treated like shit and that they don’t have enough money to pay for good coaches.”
Gulbis’s father is the fourth richest man in Latvia. Monfils, who beat Gulbis 6-7 (5), 6-4, 7-6 (4), 6-2 in one of the best matches here in years to advance to the third round, had no such hard words — for Murray, at least.
“He’s a good friend of mine, Andy,” he said. “I know him since, well, I will say 10 and he was nine, I think, when I first played him. So it was very nice because at the beginning honestly I couldn’t speak in English. His French is not very good. Some time is improving.
“And then we just chat some time, and, you know, some time we cross in Miami, you know. Some time, when we can, we try to hit together. And it’s very nice guy, and, you know, he’s a good friend of mine on the tour.”
Not as articulate maybe, but equally heartfelt.