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Cigar-smoking Gulbis fired up to reach the top

tennis Updated: Jun 06, 2014 21:33 IST
French Open

French Open sensation Ernests Gulbis celebrated his colourful Roland Garros campaign with a cigar on Friday before confidently predicting a major title was just around the corner.

The 25-year-old son of one of Latvia's richest men, who used to travel to tournaments by Lear jet, was beaten 6-3, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 by world number two Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals on Friday.

It ended one of the tournament's most compelling storylines.

Gulbis had knocked out 17-time major winner Roger Federer in the fourth round, the Swiss legend's earliest French Open exit in a decade.

He then caused a minor stir when he suggested tennis was no place for women to forge a career and that they would be better served staying at home producing babies.

It was the latest in a long line of headline grabbing soundbites from Gulbis whose hair-trigger opinions have overshadowed a topsy-turvy career.

But he insists he is now serious about toppling the giants of the sport after admitting earlier in the tournament that he was riding the "last train".

"I can take a cigar with my coach. That's the only vice which is left in me," said Gulbis after reaching his first major semi-final.

The celebrations would have been a lot more boisterous in his bad old days when he would miss days of practice to recover from the late nights, the wild times which once saw him arrested in Sweden for allegedly trying to pick up a prostitute.

"I'm not going to celebrate. Now I'm addicted to success, really," he said.

"I felt the success so close, and I don't say that I let it slip, these two weeks, because it's great to play semifinal. I need to make this extra step now. I'm extra motivated now."

Many in the sport have heard this pledge before from a man who had previously only once got to the last-eight of a Grand Slam - in Paris in 2008.

How far can he go?
"All the way to No 1," he confidently asserted.

He's closing in on that prediction as he will be in the top 10 in Monday's new world rankings from his current 17.

At the end of 2012, he was down at 139 and begging for wildcards into second-tier Challenger events.

Even his own mother urged him to quit.

He will certainly be regarded as a threat at Wimbledon which starts in two weeks and where he made the third round in 2013, his best performance at the All England Club.

If the courts are fast and true, few will relish facing a player who was serving at 225km/h in Paris and hitting 75 aces.

"Overall experience is just that I understood it much more than I did the previous time I was in the second week of a Grand Slam," he concluded.

"Previous time I reached the quarter-final I had no idea what was happening. I was there, you know, whatever comes, comes. I wasn't thinking about it.

"Now I really understood every feeling and I learned from it and I tried to enjoy it. I tried to understand how I can be better next time."