I Guess I Can Still Write About Toronto…

Written By: achangeofends - Aug• 11•10

Even though I can’t be there, I’m still following the happenings at the Rogers Cup in Toronto. It’s actually been a fairly eventful couple of days. Don’t worry, all your top seeds are still in the game. The highest seeded player we’ve seen make an early exit is Fernando Verdasco (9.) All of the top 5 players in the world are still working their way towards the final. The boys in pink, Nadal and Federer, seem to be doing alright, as is Murray. Djokovic is having some of his infamous issues with his breathing in the heat. I’m not really sure what he can do to alleviate this. It doesn’t seem to be an injury or even an issue with fitness. If it was either of those, I think he would have fixed it by now. It really seems like his body just can handle being in such hot conditions and playing for a long time. That’s far worse than an injury that just needs some time to heal. Interestingly, Djokovic’s only major title was at the Australian Open, which is the hottest of all the Grand Slams. Oh well, he made it through his match today and hopefully Toronto will cool off a bit for his sake.

Soderling rounds out your top 5. He also made it through to the third round, but not without a fight. Ernests Gulbis, the young Latvian, kept up with Soderling well into the third set. Steve Tignor, one of my very favorite tennis journalists, interviewed Gulbis after his defeat and wrote an excellent piece that can be found at http://tennisworld.typepad.com/thewrap/2010/08/whatever-happens.html. Honestly, I’ve never paid that much attention to Ernests Gulbis. Every once in a while, he pops up on my radar and then disappears for a while. Apparently he’s the second coming of Marat Safin, and it’s probably not clear from my blog, but I really miss Marat. He was one of my favorite players to watch, sometimes because he was unbelievably talented, and sometimes because he was wildly unpredictable. Everyone loves a bad boy, and Marat was the quintessential tennis bad boy. He partied too much; he got in fights, and broke more rackets than anyone could count. What other player has shown up to a tournament with a black eye from a bar fight? It’s true, after watching several interviews with Ernests and seeing him in person, he does share several qualities with Safin. There are far worse players he could be compared to. People are quick to criticize, but Safin won two Grand Slams. You may say he was capable of more, but who cares? Most players would kill for what he achieved, and he managed to have a good time doing it. Who are we to scold him for it? Back to Ernests, the first thing that struck me from the interviews was that he sounds exactly like Safin. Gulbis is from Latvia and Safin is from Russia, two bordering countries, so it stands to reason that they would speak English with a similar accent. If you believe the news, Gulbis also shares Safin’s penchant for women. He was arrested in Sweden for picking up a prostitute last year. He’s only 21 years old and already an international sports star, I think we should probably cut him some slack. The other major similarity comes in the form of Ernests nonchalance. Win or lose, the guy doesn’t really seem to care. When Tignor interviewed Gulbis, he had just lost a match he really should have won. He had a ton of break points in the second set, and as Tignor says in his article, Soderling won the match because he wanted it more. He also has the same love/hate relationship with tennis that Safin so often portrayed.

I like Ernests Gulbis. He has an interesting game when he can get it to work and his casual personality makes him seem like the guy next door. If I had to choose a tennis player to hang out with, this guy would definitely be on my short list. He manages to be funny even in English, which is very difficult for the players who speak it as a second language and he doesn’t care what other people think (the pervasive opinion is that he is merely lazy.) You almost wouldn’t know he was a tennis player. At an ATP tournament, even someone who’s never watched tennis can pick out most of the players. Hint: they’re the tall, fit ones, traveling with an entourage and carrying giant racket bags. I saw Ernests on Sunday morning in Toronto and barely noticed him at all. He was sitting alone, in a chair in the hotel lobby, with a hoodie pulled all the way up and listening to his ipod. He looked exactly like any other 21 year old guy. I can’t say I’m really sure why he plays tennis at all, considering he’s from one of the wealthiest families in Latvia and doesn’t seem to like it all that much, but I’m glad he does. Maybe he’ll be discussing it with me one day.

I didn’t mean to dedicate this whole article to one player, but this guy’s been getting a lot of attention again, and I’m intrigued. In other news, the Rogers Cup has lost some fan favorites already. David Ferrer, Tommy Robredo, Feliciano Lopez, Fernando Verdasco, Gilles Simon, Janko Tipsarevic, and Sam Querrey are all out. It’s worth noting that Janko Tipsarevic, who’s had a pretty good few weeks, hurt his ankle and has since pulled out of Cincinnati. Hopefully he’ll be alright for the US Open. I don’t think it makes much of a difference though because everyone wants to see what happens with our top 4. They’re what matters. They do have some threats though, like an in form David Nalbandian, who’s been on an absolute tear lately.

As a parting thought, I just have to mention how confused I am every time I look at the Toronto draw. Roger Federer’s name is not at the top of either half. It sits cozily in the middle of the right half. In all the time I’ve been watching tennis, Roger has occupied one of the coveted end spots. It’s completely foreign for me to have to search for it. I believe Roger will sit firmly atop one of those columns at some point in the near future, particularly with growing concerns over Djokovic’s game.

In completely unrelated news, Dmitry Tursunov, pictured above with Gulbis, was awarded a wild card entry into the Binghampton challenger event this week, but was disqualified when he arrived late for his first match. If he’s looking to get back to the top 20, he’s going to have to remember to actually show up for his matches. Dmitry is another guy who is quite funny to listen to and he has an excellent twitter account. He often responds directly to fans with questions or comments. You can follow him on twitter @TursunovTales.

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