Ernests Gulbis says you have to be a robot to be a top tennis player these days, but the Latvian certainly did not look like one as he smashed rackets, yelled at the umpire and came storming back from 4-0 down in the final set Thursday to oust No. 3 seed Sam Querrey 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (4) in the second round of the Delray Beach International.
Gulbis, whose huge talent frequently has been undermined by a suspect temperament, shrugged off a point penalty at the start of the third set and made the most of uncharacteristic serving errors from Querrey. The big American double-faulted on game point to lose one of his breaks and then came up with a pair of them on the last two points of the match when he was 5-4 down in the tiebreaker.
“It was a bummer,” Querrey admitted. “I had him on the ropes. I don’t usually do that sort of thing. I played a sloppy game at 4-0 and then started getting tentative on a couple of shots. He always serves well, but he was returning a bit better than usual, too.”
Querrey said that his opponent’s antics didn’t bother him and that he would now try and clear the loss from his mind before heading for the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event at Indian Wells, Calif. “I probably won’t have to play my first match there until Saturday or Sunday, so I’ll have about 10 days to get over this,” he said.
Gulbis, who won this title in 2010, was obviously happy to have survived because he desperately needs ATP ranking points after slumping to No. 109. “Every win is important for me because I need to be able to get into the clay-court tournaments in Europe in Monte Carlo and Madrid,” he said.
He was still bristling over the fine he will receive for racket abuse. “Everything is so strict now,” he said. “Before, players could be themselves a little bit but now you have to be a robot with your fitness, your diet and how you behave. I get fined, OK. But I wish I could fine someone.”
The umpire, maybe? Gulbis just smiled.
Jack Sock, the young American hope, suffered a disappointing 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 loss to Ricardas Berankis, who, ironically, comes from Lithuania, the northern European nation that sits next to Latvia. Berankis is a small, but talented player who jumped all over Sock’s big serve in the final set and gave the American no chance of fighting back.
There was consolation for Sock shortly afterward in the doubles when he partnered James Blake to an exciting 6-2, 3-6, 10-7 win over Colin Fleming and John Peers.
In other matches, second-seeded Tommy Haas of Germany moved into the quarterfinals with a 6-4, 6-1 win over Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan.
The 34-year-old Haas finished last season ranked 21st and was the oldest player in the world’s top 50 players.
Haas, who reached the San Jose final earlier this month, never faced a break point against serve in the 67-minute match against the 42nd-ranked Istomin.
”It’s a little different with the cool weather and no wind today so it was very pleasant to play,” Haas said. ”I had a lot of chances early on that I didn’t take and frustrated me, but at 4-5 I broke him to win the first set and that mentally disturbed him a little bit.”
And qualifier Daniel Munoz-De La Nava of Spain upset eighth-seeded Xavier Malisse, a former two-time Delray champion, 7-6 (3), 3-6, 6-3.