Tennis | Delray Beach International Tennis Championships

Latvia’s Ernests Gulbis becomes third qualifier to win Delray Beach International Tennis Championships


Special to The Miami Herald

When qualifier Ernests Gulbis won his second Delray Beach International Tennis Championships title Sunday with a 7-6 (7-3), 6-3 win over 105th-ranked Eduoard Roger-Vasselin, he wasn’t mesmerized by the $78,000 winner’s check or the trophy.

The 24-year-old Latvian, who also won here in 2010, had his eye on something else: a bright red Porsche that was parked on the side of the court all week long.

When he inquired if he’s getting the car, too, and was told regretfully not, he joked, “You better give it to me or I’m not coming back.”

On the serious side, the 109th-ranked Gulbis, who ranked as high as 21st in 2011, made headway on his goal of moving back up the rankings. In the next rankings, he is estimated to rank approximately 52nd, but will still have to play qualifying at the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells next week.

Noted since his 2006 arrival on tour as a guy with top-10 talent, Gulbis struggled to keep his focus on competing. Tennis pundits blame his wealthy upbringing as cause for his lack of hunger for success. Recently, however, he decided it was time to try to live up to his potential.

“I feel really good about it and I just talked to my coach [Gunther Bresnik] and he’s happy; I’m happy; everybody is happy,” Gulbis said. “We didn’t think that it was going to happen so fast.

“My coach thought I wouldn’t go back into the top 100 until around April.”

The upside to Gulbis is his forthrightness. He tells it like it is, whether it’s flattering or not.

For example, he admitted to employing a bit of chicanery when Roger-Vasselin was serving on his only set point in the one-hour, 36-minute match.

Roger-Vasselin briefly paused for the wind to subside when serving that set point at 5-4 in the first set. When the Frenchman went to serve again Gulbis started to complain about fan noise to umpire Fergus Murphy. Gulbis saved the set point with an untouchable backhand down-the-line winner and went on to break serve to 5-5.

“I cannot say that sometimes I don’t do it on purpose because I know that the guy is nervous,” Gulbis said. “That’s part of the mental game. If you cannot be tough enough to deal with my talking to the umpire then, ‘OK, you lose the set.’ ”

Roger-Vasselin, 29, the son of 2003 French Open semifinalist Christophe Roger-Vasselin, was displeased that Gulbis toyed with him on the point, but admitted Gulbis was the better player on the day.

“Honestly, he played good, he was just too good,” Roger-Vasselin said. “It’s always tough to lose in the final. But it’s a great week for me.”

Gulbis secured the win with a service break in the seventh game of the second set when, at 15-40, Roger-Vasselin netted a backhand half-volley.

Gulbis now has a 3-0 record in finals, having also won the 2011 Los Angeles title. He’s now the third qualifier to win the Delray Beach title and the fourth man to win this title twice.

• The All-American duo of James Blake and Jack Sock picked up the doubles title with a 6-4, 6-4 upset of top seeds Max Mirnyi and Horia Tecau. Blake, 33, and Sock, 20, were playing together for only the second time. They reached the Memphis final last week, losing to Bob and Mike Bryan.

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