Ernests Gulbis believes that tennis lacks characters and the top players are "boring", but that was the last adjective you would have used to describe either his opponent or their second-round match here at the French Open.
Gaël Monfils, whose tennis and personality are as colourful as his garish blue and yellow shirt, beat Gulbis 6-7, 6-4, 7-6, 6-2 after three and a quarter hours of rich entertainment on Court Philippe Chatrier. The meeting of two men who play such bold and inventive tennis had been billed as the match of the day and it did not disappoint.
It hardly needed building up, but Gulbis did his best with a remarkable interview in this morning's edition of L'Equipe, France's national daily sports newspaper. The 24-year-old Latvian is a natural successor to Marat Safin in every sense, from his exuberant tennis to his playboy image and his say-what-I-think attitude.
When asked by L'Equipe about the comparison with Safin, Gulbis said: "Tennis today badly lacks characters. I respect Roger [Federer], Rafa [Nadal], Novak [Djokovic] and [Andy] Murray, but for me all four of them are boring players. Their interviews are boring. Honestly, they are really boring.
"I often go on YouTube to watch interviews. I quickly stopped watching tennis interviews. It's a joke. It was Federer who started this trend. He has a superb image as a perfect Swiss gentleman. I repeat that I respect Federer, but I don't like the way that young players try to imitate him.
"When I hear them reply like Roger, I am alarmed by phrases like, 'I had a bit more success at certain moments and that was how I won'. What does that mean? If I've won, I've sent the other guy home. That's the reality. I don't want to hear a guy who I wouldn't name but who I know thinks all his opponents are arseholes, putting on an act in an interview."
Gulbis said he would prefer to see players talk more like boxers, who speak their mind. In tennis, he said, "everything is clean, completely white, with gentle handshakes and pretty shots, whereas people would like to see broken rackets and hear some outbursts on the court".
As for his party-goer reputation, Gulbis said: "When I go out, I go out. I don't want to go into details, but when I party I like to party. Crazy or not, if you get drunk with some mates and you get to bed at seven in the morning, I say that's normal."
The match had everything, from the Frenchman taking out his phone to take photographs of the crowd to Gulbis hitting a serve under-arm. Gulbis thought the match turned because he was not fit enough, while "La Monf", as his opponent is nicknamed, showed astonishing speed and flexibility. Murray is one of many who regard the Frenchman as the game's greatest athlete and the Scot tweeted last night: "La Monf to win Rolly G?"
Monfils, who next plays Spain's Tommy Robredo, enjoyed passionate support from his home crowd. "I played a beautiful point and had 22 people applauding me," Gulbis said. "When half of them are members of your team – people you gave tickets to before the match – that's not enough. But the French crowd is a French crowd. It's good."
Roger Federer coasted to a 6-2, 6-1, 6-1 victory over India's Somdev Devvarman, while among the women Petra Kvitova needed three sets to beat Aravane Rezai, Serena Williams crushed Caroline Garcia for the loss of three games and Agnieszka Radwanska and Victoria Azarenka won in straight sets over Mallory Burdette and Elena Vesnina respectively.
Caroline Wozniacki was the day's major loser, going down 7-6, 6-3 to Serbia's Bojana Jovanovski.Reuse content