By Robert Woodward
PARIS (Reuters) - It is seven years since Ernests Gulbis won through to the fourth round of a grand slam and he knows he has no one else to blame but himself. Gulbis was 18 on his appearance in the last 16 of a major, at the 2007 U.S. Open, and since then a series of bad decisions, general laziness and ill-timed holidays meant the Latvian failed to make the most of his talent.
Gulbis, who began playing when he was five, comes from a wealthy background.
His father ran an investment business and his mother was an actress, and his parents never pushed him to practice, pulling him off court to do other things even when he wanted to play.
"It was just a part of my character. I was never about the hard work at that age," he said.
But Gulbis has finally seen the light after a straight-sets defeat of Radek Stepanek at the French Open on Thursday. “Basically I’m jumping on the last train,” Gulbis, the 18th seed, said.
“I'm 25, so this was my last opportunity to be really successful, I think, and I think I have seven, eight more years to play in the top level. “I did a lot of bad decisions career-wise. Maybe not even just bad decisions, but just not paying too much attention to the things that I do, not paying too much attention how to treat my body, how to practise.
“Whenever I was in practice, whenever I was on the court or in the gym, I always work hard. “But the things that surrounded that - the planning, too much up and down, not enough consistent work. Basically in the last two years it's been more or less the most consistent work that I did. “Before that I had a consistent three months of work, but then again something happened or I got sick or went to Latvia and took stupid 10 days off. “These kind of decisions were just wrong. And now nobody even needs to tell me this, I know exactly what to do even on my days off. That's the biggest difference.” Gulbis, who is known as a temperamental player, said the realization that time was short will now work to his benefit. “I don't regret it at all, because I think in a way I'm in a better position, maybe not as a tennis player but as a person because I have been through up and down. “Most of the guys who are on top now, they haven't been down a lot. They haven't gone back from playing quarter-final at a Grand Slam to ask for a wildcard in a challenger and not getting it, playing qualifying in a challenger,” said Gulbis whose ranking fell to 139 at the end of 2012. “So now nothing can really blur my mind and my vision. I saw the tough picture, you know. So I know everything about it.”
(Editing by Ed Osmond)