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July 6, 2017

Ernests Gulbis

Wimbledon, London, England

E. GULBIS/J. Del Potro

6-4, 6-4, 7-6

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. That must be really satisfying, to win in straight sets against DelPo on grass?
ERNESTS GULBIS: It's very satisfying. I found out yesterday that it was my first win in 13 months on a tour level in a main draw. I won one challenger match and I won one qually match in Rotterdam. In the main draw, it was for a long time.

I played well my first-round match. This match I played really, really great tennis. I served well, I returned well. In my opinion, Del Potro is one of the best players. I mean, for sure he has one of the best forehands. He's really tough to beat.

I was happy that in the third set, even that I got a little bit maybe tight and he played well when he broke me back in the third set, I still managed to win in the tiebreak.

Q. Where has this tennis been all that time?
ERNESTS GULBIS: Practice court. I just didn't participate in tournaments (laughter). I was practicing a lot.

Q. You said that you were not really ready before the match in terms of physically and everything. What surprised you the most about the way you played today? Maybe you weren't surprised.
ERNESTS GULBIS: I was very relaxed. Didn't really surprise me because I'm just in a relaxed state of mind right now coming into this tournament. I came here without playing any points. I came actually here three days before the tournament, and it was the first time I tried to play points. I played a couple games. The next day I played eight games. Then I didn't even play a full set. Being relaxed, hitting the ball really well.

I've been hitting the ball well already for more than a month. I was hitting the ball well in Paris, but it was tough first round, you know. I didn't move as well as I want to.

Here, movement is important. But it's different kind of movement, you know. I don't need to slide. I don't need to rally that much. My shots are really clean right now. I feel very confident on both sides.

As soon as I'm relaxed, you know, I can produce this kind of tennis.

Q. What has been the biggest physical obstacle lately for you, recently?
ERNESTS GULBIS: I had two muscle tears, one in the calf, one in abdominal. Actually, I came to Roland Garros same like I did here: without playing any points. I tore my calf muscle in Estoril. So it took me a while to recover.

I came to Paris. I played, again, couple days points, then I played the match. I mean, it wasn't easy, against Cilic. If you're not top shape, you don't have a chance.

Then I went to Prostejov, to a challenger. I tore my abdominal muscle in the first round. I won it, but I didn't really feel how I tored [sic] it. In the evening it was really painful. I went to do the pictures and everything. So another problem.

None of these problems are really big. But anyway, both of them, depending on the size of the tear... But my ones, you're out for two weeks. So two weeks out, another let's say 10 days until you're starting to play decent again. So it's a big amount of time.

This has been the story this season, you know. I mean, in the beginning of season, also I had some calf problems. I didn't tear it, but it was getting tight. Still the wrist wasn't perfect. That was the biggest issue that I which when I stopped playing last year. But now the wrist is fine.

Q. You said that you are relaxed now. How do you reach that state of mind? Sometimes it's more difficult to reach it. You can tell yourself to be relaxed. You know what I mean?
ERNESTS GULBIS: It's a long story. There is no miracle. It's a long story. It's a private story for everybody. I think it's tough to give you definition in couple sentences, or even in a half-an-hour speech.

Q. Since you never passed beyond the third round in Wimbledon, do you think there was a reason? Because you didn't like grass? Was just a coincidence? Also serve and volley, not many rallies. Grass should suit you.
ERNESTS GULBIS: It should suit me. I had some good matches. I can count on my fingers, you know, the good matches I had on grass, but I had them. I had one against Nadal when I lost in four sets back in, I don't remember when. It was one of my first Wimbledons. I had a really good match against Berdych, when I won 7-6, 7-6, 7-6, I think on Centre Court. So I had some decent results. I never could follow them.

My game, yeah, grass should suit me. I think what I did well this year, even without having that amount of time to prepare, I started in a really correct way to move on grass. Movement on grass is the most important, that you're feeling stable.

So I just went on a football field, you know, with grass court shoes and did some drills with that, even without playing, even with the tear not being fully recovered. I still did some steps just to feel stable. This I think helped me a lot.

For sure next year, you know, knowing this approach, because also I still try a lot of new things, now I can only learn on this approach which I had this year. The previous years maybe I had a worse approach. Even the year when I played really well, 2014, after Paris, you know, I did a mistake that I played next week in Queen's. I should take the week off. I should to prepare better. But I rushed on grass. Then you lose little bit confidence on grass, you lose one match, it's that kind of thing.

But you learn on your mistakes. I've been around for a long time. I made a lot of good decisions, and also a lot of bad decisions. So try to learn from the bad ones.

Q. Three years ago you were quoted as saying that you were on the last chance train.
ERNESTS GULBIS: I was wrong. Maybe now is the last chance train. Maybe is going to be another last chance in five years. Who knows. Now the age comes more and more. So I have another eight years to play (laughter).

Q. There are calls on the Internet to shave your beard. Are you going to listen or not?
ERNESTS GULBIS: I don't pay too much attention to it.

Q. Lucky beard?
ERNESTS GULBIS: Not lucky, no. Just, to be honest, a little bit lazy to shave. It's not a style thing. Just how it is, you know.

Q. Now you have to play Djokovic, correct?
ERNESTS GULBIS: I think so, yes.

Q. You are good friends. You were together with Niki Pilic when you were, I think, 14, something like that?
ERNESTS GULBIS: Yes, but we never were such a long time together there. We were a couple weeks. I was there a lot, a lot of time, because I was there with Niki. He was, yeah, my first mentor, my first coach. He was like my second father back at that time. I spend I think more than seven years there with him.

Novak was coming and going. He was, yeah, there for a couple weeks, then he left for half a year. But we practiced little bit.

Q. Were you good friends? Did you have time to become friends or not?
ERNESTS GULBIS: Yes, friendship is a much deeper thing. But we didn't have enough time to become really close friends. We had a really nice relationship, a really good relationship.

Q. Do you like the idea to play with him? Nothing to lose?
ERNESTS GULBIS: Yes, I had nothing to lose also this match, and I played well. I'm going to have even less to lose next match. Maybe I'll play even better (smiling).

Q. With the way you were playing today, just how you're feeling the ball on grass, your movement, do you feel you can actually test Novak?
ERNESTS GULBIS: Let's see. I mean, I don't know. I don't know. It's tough to say, you know. I came here without any expectations. I didn't know if I'm going to -- I didn't know if I'm going to win a set here honestly. Now I won six sets in a row. First round really comfortable. This match playing really good.

I don't want to look too far.

Q. Jelena Ostapenko described you as her idol when she was coming up. How much fun has it been to watch her progress over the last month?
ERNESTS GULBIS: It's unbelievable. This is really unbelievable. I said it yesterday in smaller press conference. It was just couple people. But I told my thoughts on it already.

I'm extremely happy for her and for Latvia, that we have such a great player.

Q. There have been quite a lot of people retiring for injury early rounds. What do you think about people, players coming in with an injury?
ERNESTS GULBIS: I think they should make a rule like they have in ATP, that when you come, you're allowed to get your paycheck. Then you're not going to see Klizan, you're not going to see Dolgopolov coming on Centre Court two matches in a row playing 45 minutes, then leaving.

I mean, they know already before the match they're not going to be able to play. Unfortunately it was for the tournament that they play, I think Djokovic and Federer, yes? Then you have spectators come, they pay money, they want to see tennis, and they see two and a half sets, not full 100% tennis.

I think you have to change this rule because players work really hard throughout the year, you know, to get this prize money in Grand Slams. This is, let's say, for most of the guys, is the money which keeps them going, which keeps them that they have enough for the remaining year.

So you have, et cetera say, four Grand Slams. Even if you lose first round, you get whatever, $150,000 a year, at least you can cover your expenses.

Q. I think another idea of a rule that has been suggested is instead just reducing the first-round prize money. What do you think of that?
ERNESTS GULBIS: I like to raise prize money. I don't want to reduce anything. So I oppose anything with reducing (smiling).

Q. There has been outrage around Bernard Tomic being honest in a press conference, talking about being bored on the court, I feel I am so old, I don't care if I lose first round or fourth round. He was dropped by his racquet sponsor, things like that. You're someone who is always honest in press conferences. Do you think someone should be penalized for saying how he feels, having a slump and a poor period, or...
ERNESTS GULBIS: It's tough to say. I didn't see it. I didn't see in what context he said it. I didn't see how he said it.

But based on your words, Bernard, I know him a little bit. He's a nice guy. He's not a bad guy. It's just the way he says things sometimes, you know, it's maybe too straightforward. He doesn't mean those things, you know.

Unfortunately, yes, nowadays you get penalized a lot when speaking up your mind and saying some unpopular things. You have to be a little bit smart in that. Maybe this is not the case how he did it the last time. But it's tough to say more.

But I know him. He's a good guy. He doesn't mean bad. There's some bad guys who play nice, but he's a nice guy who doesn't play bad. But sometimes you get in this position. This is unfortunate.

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