Ernests Gulbis has long been a one of the hardest players in the game to figure out. He's known for mixing puzzling losses with brilliant upsets, and his ranking has fluctuated accordingly. However, it appeared that Gulbis began to figure it out and gain consistency in 2014, as he finished in the top 15 in the world. All the signs were pointing to more success in 2015, as Gulbis was squarely in his prime and would have the luxury of being seeded fairly high at most events. However, Gulbis' 2015 season to date has to be one of the strangest and most disappointing beginnings to a season in recent memory.
After his loss to Benoit Paire in
Barcelona, Gulbis is now 1-9 on the year,
with his only win coming against Daniel Gimeno-Traver in Indian Wells. Further, in most of his losses he hasn't even
managed to take a set. It's natural for
players to have some down periods throughout their career, but its particularly
unusual to see a player of Gulbis' quality completely forget how to win
matches. He never has had the focus or
desire of a Nadal or Djokovic, and accordingly has always been prone to slumps,
but not to this degree.
It's possible Gulbis is simply struggling to adjust to the higher expectations based on his strong 2014, and doesn't know how to handle being the favorite. However, the attention placed on Gulbis following his 2014 season was hardly enormous, as there are plenty of other players the tennis world focuses on before him. If he's that flustered by the attention and expectations following a top 15 season, it's hard to imagine how he would handle even greater success should he temporarily turn his career around.
For now Gulbis' ranking is still respectable based on last year's points still counting, but it will begin to plummet as the 2014 points gradually fade away. At this rate, it won't be long before he's having to qualify to play challengers. Maybe he'll go ahead and "pull a Gulbis" and do something remarkable at the French Open completely out of nowhere. If he doesn't, we may be seeing a lot less of him on the ATP Tour in the near future.