Importance of being Ernests as new dad Gulbis aims to make time count

Paris (AFP) –


He's defeated Roger Federer, reached the world's top 10, was once arrested for soliciting prostitutes and blasted the 'big four' of tennis for being boring.

But Latvian free spirit Ernests Gulbis, now a proud father, knows that time to make his undoubted on-court talents count is rapidly running out.

"I want to win more than I did eight years ago. Things change. I pay more attention to what I am doing on the court," said 29-year-old Gulbis, now down at 160 in the world and forced to come through qualifying at this year's Roland Garros.

"I once would lose easy matches and think I still have 10 more years ahead of me.

"Now I know time is limited and I probably have three more good years left in me."

Gulbis, the son of a wealthy Latvian investment banker and actress mother, has never been far from the headlines in his colourful career.

He famously defeated Federer to make the French Open semi-finals in 2014 before reportedly blowing his winnings in a Riga casino.

He also once spent a night in the cells in Sweden for allegedly soliciting prostitutes -- which he blamed on a "silly misunderstanding" -- and was immediately portrayed as the man with a racquet in his hand let down by the silver spoon in his mouth.

"Yes, I have a Learjet," he once jousted with the media. "And I have a helicopter, a submarine and a spaceship."

The headlines kept on coming.

On one visit to Roland Garros, he famously criticised Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray for being "boring".

However, Gulbis, the owner of one of the sport's most destructive forehands, insists that he is now fully dedicated to tennis.

Married to former model Tamara Kopaleyshvili and having become the father of a baby girl in March, he says he owes it to himself to capitalise on his ability.

"I haven't forgotten the win over Federer," he said Monday after making the second round at the French Open by beating Luxembourg's 29th seed Gilles Muller 2-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-3.

"But what difference does it make? OK, I beat him, I was number 10. It's all about how you evolve as a person, what you understand in the head.

"You can be number 1, 10, 50. If that's what you want for your ego, then OK. I don't have these ambitions anymore.

"My ambition is to get through this phase. I need to do it as a man and a husband, to do it for myself."

Just don't ask him about being a father.

"That's a private thing."