Professional tennis no place for women, says Gulbis

Outspoken Ernests Gulbis claimed Friday that women should not play professional tennis and that they would be better served having children instead.

Ernests Gulbis returns the ball to Radek Stepanek during their French Open third round match at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris on May 30, 2014

Gulbis, whose rollercoaster career has seen him locked up in jail and label the big four of the men's games as boring, made his outburst after reaching the French Open fourth round when he was asked if he'd encourage his two sisters to take up the sport.

"Hopefully they will not pursue a professional tennis career," said the 25-year-old Gulbis, the son of one of Latvia's richest men and who once travelled to tournaments in a private Lear jet.

"Because for a woman, it's tough. I wouldn't like my sisters to become professional tennis players. It's a tough choice of life.

"A woman needs to enjoy life a little bit more. Needs to think about family, needs to think about kids. What kids you can think about until age of 27 if you're playing professional tennis, you know."

Maria Sharapova, the sport's highest-profile women's player, said Gulbis's remarks should not be taken too seriously.

"I think he's great entertainment and we love to listen to what he has to say. But you have different opinions. In a way, I think he was joking, but he's playing the sport, so how bad can it be? If he felt so bad about it, and even if he's a male, I don't think he'd be playing it," said Sharapova.

"I think the sport brings so many opportunities to women. I mean, it's brought me so many things into my life and my career. I don't regret any step that I have taken.

"When I'm playing, I'm in front of thousands of people and the experience that this sport brings, I think, of course I want my kids to do this, this is such a huge lesson in life."

Gulbis's latest outburst is the latest in a series of controversies which have followed him throughout his career.

It came just after he had reached the French Open fourth round, his first run to the last 16 of a major since he made the quarter-finals in Paris in 2008.

Next up is a clash with Roger Federer, one of the men who felt the sharp end of his tongue at Roland Garros in 2013 when he accused the 17-time major winner as well as Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray of boring the pants off tennis fans.

"I made a lot of bad decisions career‑wise," admitted Gulbis.

There's been a few of those, most notably being jailed for a night in Sweden after being accused of soliciting a prostitute before losing his wallet when he took a midnight swim with a girl he had just met in Miami.

"But now I am jumping on the last train. I'm 25, so this is my last opportunity to be really successful. I think I have a good seven, eight more years to play in the top level."

- Not scared of Federer -

Gulbis, the world number 17, made the French Open last 16 by seeing off 35-year-old Czech veteran Radek Stepanek 6-3, 6-2, 7-5 in a fractious Court One meeting, firing 19 aces and 45 winners.

Back in the big time after six years which saw his ranking slip to 159 in 2012, Gulbis says he probably would not have acted any differently if he had his time over again.

"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 ups and downs," he said.

"Most of the guys who are on top now, they haven't been down a lot. They haven't gone from playing a quarter-final in a Grand Slam to asking for a wildcard in a Challenger."

Against Federer, who he has defeated once in their three meetings, Gulbis says he has a game plan already worked out.

"You don't need to be scared to do certain things against him, because most of the people they go on the court and they lose already the match before it has started," he said.

"I can tell you that's not gonna be the case with me."

About the author

Writer: AFP
Position: News agency