Novak, Gulbis will keep friendship aside in duel | sports | Hindustan Times
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Novak, Gulbis will keep friendship aside in duel

Novak Djokovic was always second-best when he faced Ernests Gulbis during childhood practice sessions, but he's the one with a Grand Slam title while his old friend struggled to make a breakthrough.

sports Updated: Jun 03, 2008 09:20 IST

Novak Djokovic was always second-best when he faced Ernests Gulbis during childhood practice sessions, but he's the one with a Grand Slam title while his old friend struggled to make a breakthrough.

In a meteoric rise, world No. 3 Djokovic counts the Australian Open, as well as four Masters titles, amongst his 10 trophies, and is tantalisingly within reach of Rafael Nadal's world number two ranking. Latvia's Gulbis, just 19, is ranked at 80 and has only now reached his first Grand Slam last eight. Ironically, it will be against Djokovic in the quarterfinals.

"He was destroying me in practices. I couldn't win a match," said Djokovic who shared his formative years with Gulbis at the Munich tennis academy owned by Niki Pilic, the former Davis Cup coach for Germany and Croatia. "We knew each other on and off the court and there were some crazy experiences off the court. "He was very talented back then and very powerful. But he's still getting through. He made some good results here and there, but he's not consistent.

"He'd beat me in practice but that's a great example that practice and the official matches are two different things."

As Latvia's only player of note, success has come at a price for Gulbis. "After last year's US Open, when I reached the fourth round, the courts in Latvia are always fully booked," he said.

Morigami denies match-fixing allegations

TOKYO: Japanese Akiko Morigami has apologised and denied match-fixing after suggesting she and doubles partner Aiko Nakamura were asked to deliberately lose at the French Open. Morigami was quoted as saying that a national coach had asked her to throw their first round match so Nakamura would be free for a singles event that could help her qualify for the Beijing Olympics. Morigami denied she did anything wrong. "I sincerely apologise for causing tremendous trouble," she wrote on her blog. "Since we entered in the doubles, we do our best. There is no doubt about this," she added, without commenting on whether she was retracting her original allegations.