Ernests Gulbis of Latvia and Sergiy Stakhovsky of Ukraine can both be loose cannons with things they say. It almost seems like they are looking for a bit of added attention and on the sixth day of the French Open it was Gulbis’ turn to garner some of that focus.
He scored a win over Radek Stepanek and set up a meeting with Roger Federer and it was the first time since what seems like the demise of wooden racquets that Gulbis did a post-match media conference at the French Open.
There is no doubt the guy has talent and he is a wonderful player to watch. Many have him as a “dark horse” at the tournament which is justified with the way he is playing. He appears to have matured as well, well maybe not to some people.
Gulbis has two younger sisters that play tennis so he was asked if they were going to be as good as he is. Some were offended by his response.
“Hopefully they will not pursue professional tennis career … Hopefully,” he said. “Because for a woman, it's tough. I wouldn't like my sisters to become professional tennis players. It's tough choice of life. A woman needs to enjoy life a little bit more. Needs to think about family, needs to think about kids. What kids you can think about until age of 27 if you're playing professional tennis, you know. That's tough for a woman, I think.”
To some degree I can see why some may have been offended but on the other hand he is highlighting the toughness of playing tennis at this level. It is very lonely and life passes you by rather quickly, especially if you don’t really make it. He would like to see his sisters enjoying themselves more and maybe not take things so seriously.
He revealed an insight to that view when he explained the possible reason why he is not placed at the heights similar to Novak Djokovic seeing they are about the same vintage. Growing up he would see Djokovic at events and marvel at how blinkered he was.
“How can I push myself to practice when I had so many different opportunities? I had my PlayStation. I had my TV,” said Gulbis with some amusement. “It was, no, no, it was just a part of my character, you know. I was never about the hard work at that age, you know.
“So also the upbringing in a way. My parents never pushed me. They always said, Okay, you're going to enjoy tennis until age of 11. I used to practice three to four times a week for one and a half, two hours maximum. My mother took me out of the court. I wanted to practice more, but she said no, no, no, you go to school, you do different stuff.
“I went to every practice with enjoyment, with fire in my eyes. That's what is a mistake probably for most of the parents when they push their kids at a young age. That's just not right.
“Okay, you have somebody like Novak who can take that, you know, from his parents, you know, who's gonna push him, but there is a lot of people who cannot. That's why he is where he is, you know. I had it just a different way.”
Gulbis comes from a very wealthy family whereas Djokovic had to fight for everything which goes some way to explain things but Gulbis certainly has no regrets.
However a journalist from China who has got a bit of a reputation of being cutting with her comments and maybe hasn’t always got the tact that is needed in situations, made a bit of a big deal about it.
Here is the exchange she had with Novak Djokovic: Q. Have you heard about Gulbis' sexist comments today? He said he hopes his two sisters won't become professional tennis players because women need to think about having kids and they need to enjoy life. And he said also having kids he thinks they can't have kids until they are in their late 20s, which is tough. What is your opinion?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I don't know what to say, really. Everybody is entitled on their own opinion. I respect his opinion, and I respect everybody's opinion, but I can't say more than that, really. I respect everybody individually and their opinions and their rights and freedom to say what they want.
Later Maria Sharapova was also asked to comment and her response had a touch of humour, suggesting what Ernests says a lot of the time should be taken with a pinch of salt.
“I don't think we can take everything serious when he speaks. I mean, let's be honest with that,” she said laughing. “I think he's great entertainment and we love to listen to what he has to say. But, I mean, of course, you have different opinions. In a way, I think he was joking, but he's playing the sport, so how bad can it be? If he felt so bad about it, and even if he's a male, I don't think he'd be playing it.
“I think the sport brings so many opportunities to women. I mean, it's brought me so many things into my life and my career. I don't regret any step that I have taken. I mean, but then, on the other hand, sometimes I wake up and think, Well, I don't wish this on my kids (laughter).
“But then when I'm playing the matches, I'm in front of thousands of people and the experience that this sport brings, I think, of course I want my kids to do this, this is such a huge lesson in life.”
Well, what do you think?