Gulbis gets caught in Stockholm
The Globe and Mail
Published Wednesday, Oct. 21 2009
, 11:48 AM EDT
Latvian player Ernests Gulbis has developed a cult following since breaking into the ATP Tour's top 50 in the world as a 19-year-old in 2007.
A good-looking guy with russet-coloured locks, the 6-foot-3 Gulbis has an interesting family background. His divorced parents are Milena, a well-known actress and daughter of famous Latvian film director Uldis Puctitis, and Ainars, a very successful businessman and ex-basketball player whose own father, Alvils, was a starter on the Soviet Union team that won the 1958 European basketball championship.
Gulbis fans had hoped that Ernests (all Latvian male names end in 's' - think of retired hockey goalie Arturs Irbe), who was named after literary giant Ernest Hemingway, would make headlines for his tennis accomplishments, not what happened this week in Stockholm. He was there playing in the ATP 250 tournament until being eliminated 6-2, 6-4 by Spanish veteran Feliciano Lopez on Wednesday.
Ernests, 21, may have had other things on his mind after reportedly being arrested on Sunday night, and then spending time in jail before being released on Monday morning, for attempted solicitation of a prostitute. In Sweden, strangely enough, the criminal burden is on the person soliciting sex, not the prostitute offering the service.
Gulbis and a friend were apparently caught as they entered a Stockholm hotel in the company of prostitutes and eventually, according to Swedish press accounts, he copped a plea and was fined 2,500 Swedish Kronor ($382 Canadian).
An ATP official confirmed that Gulbis did not do any media after his loss on Wednesday to Lopez, and declined the single request for an interview.
Currently ranked No. 93, Gulbis, who was as high as No. 38 in the summer of 2008, shares an August/September 1988, birth date with emerging talents Juan Martin del Potro, the US Open champ who is ranked No. 5, and the No. 13-ranked Marin Cilic. But of late, he has been going in the opposite direction.
Canadian fans got a look at the inscrutable "Ernie" in the first round of the 2008 Rogers Cup in Toronto when he managed to blow a 5-1 third-set lead against one of the sport's more better known 'head cases,' Jose Acasuso, eventually losing 6-7(1), 6-3, 7-5.
With a big serve and huge ground strokes, Gulbis seems to have the goods, except for an insatiable urge to hit excessive and often ill-timed drop shots.
Needless to say, there has been endless chatter on internet tennis sites about the Gulbis incident in Stockholm, with one of the most amusing comments referencing two of the sports best-known Casanovas, Marat Safin and Carlos Moya. It read, "Doesn't the ATP have some kind of mentoring program. I would have thought that on day one, someone (Marat? Moya?) would have pulled Ernie over to the side, slung an arm over his shoulder, and schooled him on these matters. Oh well, I just hope Ernie at least had the sense not to try to pay with a credit card."