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Bad Boys of the ATP: Ernests Gulbis

Bad boys. We love em, then we hate em, then we love em again. For most women, there is nothing sexier than a man who loves you then leaves you begging for more. Endless songs are written about these men our fathers would certainly not approve of, but whether we simply daydream about these rebellious romantics, (hello, Eric Northman), or actually pursue them is another matter entirely.Only one thing is for sure, at some point in our lives we will find ourselves attracted to someone who strays a little on the naughty side.

If you're a bad boy addict, modern day tennis leaves a lot to be desired. On the surface, men's tennis is filled with gentlemen who hug their opponents after a loss and don't spit the dummy when a call doesn't go their way. They don't drink, they don't smoke and they certainly don't resemble James Dean (or Deen, if you prefer). But there are a few rough cuts amongst the polished stones, those who fit in more amongst John McEnroe and Ilie Nastase than the Wimbledon tea room regulars. Over the next few months, I will make an attempt to sort out those ATP players you'd take home to meet your mother from those you... definitely wouldn't.

This week's bad boy is so bad that until recently he chose partying over tennis, letting his ranking slide all the way down to 139 before cleaning up his act. So how bad is everyone's favourite party animal, the baby-faced Ernests Gulbis?

Bad Behaviour

Far from struggling financially, Gulbis was fortunate enough to be born into a wealthy family, which may explain his lack of dedication at times. In late 2009, Gulbis failed to show up for a tournament. And that doesn't refer to a patch of bad play - Gulbis literally did not turn up to play his opening match of the Paris Masters Qualifying. He wasn't even in Paris; he was in Moscow. What exactly he was doing in Moscow remains a mystery, (perhaps hanging with his friend, Marat Safin?). When Gulbis does grace the court with his presence, he often abuses it in a similar way to Safin - by breaking multiple rackets. Gulbis admits he breaks up to 60-70 rackets a year, but confessed he did feel guilty when he visited a racket factory and saw the time and effort put into constructing the frames. He refers to his behaviour as 'a stupid habit.'

Rob Griffith/AP

While Gulbis likes the comparisons to his friend Safin, he is far less complimentary towards his fellow pros on tour. More than once Gulbis has compared his worst tennis to Spanish tennis. After a loss to Alejandro Falla in 2010, Gulbis said of his performance, “Nothing worked today. I was just running like a Spanish clay-court player standing on the baseline and pushing the ball back." At the start of 2013, Gulbis said he was 'getting really pissed' when looking at the names of the top 100 players, and said, "They can’t play tennis. I don’t know how they got into the Top 100. I think I’m much better than them. It’s a motivation.” Many would argue that motivation is exactly what Gulbis is lacking.

Bad to the Bone

2009 was a particularly naughty year for Gulbis in which tennis was rocked by a prostitute scandal involving him and a mystery player. Gulbis was charged for soliciting prostitutes in Sweden and after spending a night in jail he offered this sound bite:

“It was great. It was great fun; a very funny time. But I’m never going to go to Sweden again. If you go out and meet some girls, and immediately you’re put in jail, that’s not normal. It was very funny, though. I think everybody should go to jail at least once.”

To be the best of our knowledge, picking up prostitutes isn't something Gulbis does often. He does, however, enjoy drinking until the early hours of the morning and cannot understand why anyone would go to a nightclub and remain sober. He also thinks it is ridiculous that tennis players cannot smoke marijuana, and believes the drug should be legal. However, despite his partying image, Gulbis says the nights he enjoys most aren't when he is at a nightclub, but when he is at a friend's house, inviting over girls. 

Speaking of women, Gulbis is a big fan of the opposite sex and talks about them freely. In a recent interview with Onthegotennis, Gulbis said that although he admires the female form a lot, he is fussy when it comes to finding a girlfriend. "I’ve thought about it a lot what I am looking for in a girl.  You can not surprise anyone now-a-days with just good looks or just being good in bed.  You have to have some kind of fire, some kind of special “thing” to say that I like a girl." Unfortunately for us with an Ernie crush, those are some pretty vague instructions!

Bad Boy Gone Good

Gulbis started 2013 by turning over a new leaf. Possibly inspired by his mother, who advised him to quit tennis, Gulbis gave up partying, smoking and drinking in favour of practice. As a result he captured the Delay Beach title and went on a 13 match winning streak. At Indian Wells, he took out Janko Tipsarevic and Andreas Seppi and took Rafael Nadal to three tight sets before eventually losing. He's risen to 55 in the world and is hoping to continue his success.

With hair that invites you to run your fingers through it and big puppy dog eyes that betray his bad-boy side, Gulbis has no shortage of female fans. Add to his looks a tendency to give funny, honest answers and Gulbis has become one of the most popular lower-ranked players. However, he's also one of the most unpredictable, so nobody really knows how long this success will last. Gulbis himself can only hope. "I had a lot of disappointments, so I don’t want to set any expectations at all. Whatever comes, comes. And I’m happy about it."

How Bad?


Gulbis has certainly has his 5/5 moments, (the whole of 2009, for example), but recently he has been looking to ditch his bad boy image... at least until he retires.

* 1 - Wannabe Wild
2 - Good Times Bad Times
3 - Bad Company
4 - Nasty Naughty Boy
5 - Leader of the Pack

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Reader Comments (2)

Ahem... "Gulbis has no shortage of female fans" including some WTA as well.
March 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJess Stein
Loved it!
July 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTanya

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