Wimbledon 2014: Ernests Gulbis goes bust as Sergiy Stakhovsky keeps his cool for a clean sweep

 

wimbledon

Looking on the bright side, the most Ernests Gulbis might blow in the casino is £43k, the absurd amount of compensation doled out to those departing this precinct at the second hurdle. And that's if he gambles the lot.

This being Gulbis, a losing semi-finalist at the French Open earlier this month, no day passes without a drama. Falling in straight sets to last year's Federer-slayer Sergiy Stakhovsky did not sit well with the chaotic son of Latvian privilege, who used his post-match media obligations to clear up some bad numbers circulating after a session on the blackjack tables in Paris.

He wanted it known that the losses incurred were not those digested by his outraged mother, a former actress, reading reports over breakfast the next day at the family palazzo in Riga. There were losses, that much is true, but they did not exhaust his balance.

"Of course I went to play blackjack, but there was no word how much I won, or how much I lost. They asked me how much I lost. I said a lot. I was joking. I was smiling. The next day in Latvia they say I lost all my winnings. My mother sends me message asking maybe I'm a little bit crazy, but I'm not stupid."

Really? How about surrendering serve to love in the pivotal seventh game of the second set, and with a double-fault to boot? Not the brightest move a player ever made. In truth, he was never in this contest, a detail he acknowledged.

"A lot of credit to him. That's why he beat Roger last year. The guy has a good game plan. He comes in; he chips the ball; he takes out the pace. I just wasn't hitting the ball well enough today," Gulbis said.

It might not have been enough had Gulbis had his clay game. As Federer discovered last year there is no messing with the machine-like Ukrainian when the cogs are oiled. Memo to Jérémy Chardy of France: Stakhovsky will not make the same mistake this year as last, when the demands of the post-Federer conquest drained the tank of fuel.

"I'll do everything in my powers to play better next round. I believe I'm smarter. I learnt from my mistakes last year, what I did wrong," Stakhovsky said. And that was? "Like 355 press conferences. I just spent so much energy on different interviews and articles that I was empty when I went on the court."

It is hard to imagine Stakhovsky missing any kind of trick. Gulbis has a box full on his day, but nothing worked here. He spared us the Latvian translation services with shouts of personal encouragement in English to try to revive his fortunes.

"Come on, come on," he hollered after saving the first break point of that critical seventh game of the second set. He was forced into further verbal fire two points later following some trademark artistry at the net, going cross court with one of those acute volleys that draw gasps as standard.

And then the despair. "What is wrong with this serve?" he yelled after undoing the hard work by dumping the ball in the net. Again. He provided his own answer with an ace next up. The fault was in his head.

Gulbis finds a way to make life awkward for himself. Incredibly, over a six-point stretch he coupled unforced errors with unanswerable serves, the same stroke that had so befuddled him earlier in the game.

He must have bored himself in the end with his internal inquiries and tamely gave up the defining game with a double-fault, the sport's cardinal sin. Mutter, mutter, mutter, as he went back to his chair.

Stakhovsky knew he had his man right there. "It's never easy playing Ernests because he's the kind of personality you don't know when he's serious on court and when he's laughing. I was trying not to get too much in conversation with him, but it's hard not to."

Stakhovsky is as uncomplicated a player as he appears a person. He smacks down a half-decent serve with coruscating accuracy and keeps the unforced errors to a minimum. And, importantly, he is temperamentally a rock compared with Gulbis.

If Vladimir Putin was watching, he might understand better what he is up against in Ukraine. The Russian question came up in a discussion about where the scheduled Davis Cup match against Belgium might be played.

"There is no way we're going to play in Belgium. There is nothing wrong in Kiev for the past six months. We have some disturbances on our Russian border thanks to the Russian citizens. Apart from that, we're a very calm country."

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific