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Tennis: Gulbis defends integrity after stunning Federer

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Ernests Gulbis was forced to defend his sporting integrity on Sunday after taking a controversial medical timeout in his stunning French Open triumph over Roger Federer.

The Latvian condemned Federer to his worst defeat in Paris for 10 years with a 6-7 (5/7), 7-6 (7/3), 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 triumph that gave him a spot in the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam for the first time since he made the last eight in Paris in 2008.

But he faced questions over gamesmanship when he left the court at 2-5 in the fourth set to receive treatment on his back.

On his return, he took the next two games before Federer served out the set to level the last-16 tie but the Swiss star then slipped swiftly 3-0 down in the decider and never recovered his poise.

"It was my back and the hamstring, they were getting a little bit tight," said Gulbis, the 18th seed.

"But I'm honest, I'm not big on medical timeouts. I don't like to take it, but I take it when it's really necessary. It probably was my third medical timeout in my life.

"I didn't want to take it in the fifth set, so I took it in the end of the fourth set. Unfortunately it was before his serve. I had to do it. Otherwise I was scared to pull a muscle."

Federer refused to get dragged into a war of words over the incident, believing that the rules are not being abused as much as they were in previous years.

"Clearly you don't want anybody to abuse it. I hope that Ernests didn't. I just think as long as integrity is fine and the players do it because of obvious reasons, it's okay," said the Swiss great.

"But if it's just to disrupt play for the other guy, then clearly it's not really, really nice. Not very fair," added Federer.

However, he also said: "He didn't look hurt in any way."

Gulbis, who goes on to face Czech sixth seed Tomas Berdych for a place in the semi-finals, is never far from controversy.

- Colourful, controversial -

He was once arrested in Sweden on suspicion of soliciting a prostitute, described the big four of men's tennis as 'boring' while earlier this week suggested that women should not consider careers in professional tennis and that they would be better served being mothers instead.

But he insists he has no intention of dialling down his colourful behaviour, either on or off the court.

"I have to say what I think. I cannot speak what I don't feel," he said.

Gulbis, however, admitted he had had doubts over whether he'd ever return to centre stage at a major.

His low point came during 2012 when he ended the season at 139 in the world, scratching a living on the second-tier Challenger circuit.

"I asked questions to myself, but once really seriously when I played a Challenger in Eckental (in Germany) I asked for a wildcard. I didn't get the wildcard. I had to play qualifying," he recalled.

"I made the final, so it was an okay week, but it was just end of the year and in the middle of nowhere. In winter it was really depressing, and I thought honestly is this it. That was one big question."

And the answer?

"The answer --? this is the answer," he smiled as he found himself at the centre of attention in Paris.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/140601/tennis-gulbis-defends-integrity-after-stunning-federer