Picture this. Ernests Gulbis gets broken, at love, in the opening game of his Wimbledon first round against British wildcard Jay Clarke.
The Latvian ex-world No. 10 then walks to what he thinks is his bench during the change-of-ends, on his way to the other side of the court. Gulbis places his racquet on what he thinks is his racquet bag and grabs a bottle of water. Clarke pats Gulbis on the butt and points out that he is on the wrong side, and that this is not his bag, nor is it his water bottle.
Gulbis makes a nervous joke, “Can I drink your water?” then sheepishly walks over to the other bench.
“I tried to joke, you know this panic joke, when you’re nervous and you don’t know what to do but then you panic and then I tried to joke but something came out probably very stupid. Not funny at all,” a laughing Gulbis told reporters after the match about the moment of confusion.
“I was completely out of it. I lost the break and I was completely out. I was nervous, tense, I felt that maybe the fact that I qualified would help me, but these four days in between, it’s like another tournament. To move to these Championship courts, from the qualifying, it’s like another tournament.”
Gulbis, now married and a father of a four-month-old daughter, admits his desire to win now means he is experiencing different kinds of nerves compared to the past, as he hopes to resurrect his career following injuries and loss of form.
“It was always I was more nervous at the Grand Slams, but particularly now, just I never wanted to win more than I do right now. I’m 29 and I never wanted to win more,” said Gulbis, who ended up defeating Clarke in five sets.
“I have a family now, it also changes something in the sense that, when you’re 22, you win, you lose, sometimes you don’t practice 100 per cent, sometimes you don’t play 100 per cent… Right now if I don’t play 100 per cent I want to be home with my family, it makes no sense at all for me. Right now if I’m on the court or if I’m practicing I give it all, and sometimes it works a little bit against you. When you want it too much… but I managed to calm down in the second set so that was good.”
— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) July 3, 2018
In an era of tennis where the likes of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are setting records left, right and centre, Feliciano Lopez has managed to keep one for himself as he contests his 66th consecutive Grand Slam main draw – a new Open Era record.
Lopez, who marked his milestone tournament with an opening round win on Tuesday over Argentina’s Federico Delbonis, shared the previous record with Federer, who played 65 Slams in a row between the 2000 Australian Open and the 2016 Australian Open.
The 36-year-old Lopez hasn’t missed a major since Roland Garros in 2002 and spoke about what this record means to him.
“Well, when I was about to break the record, I thought, wow, I’m going to beat Federer at something, which is a lot already,” the Spaniard said with a smile.
“It’s only a number, and I’m really proud of my consistency. It’s not about the number of Grand Slams played. It’s about how many years have been playing at the top level. This is the most important thing.”
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