In a compelling and, at times, perplexing 4th round match, Ernests Gulbis stunned Roger Federer in five sets to progress into just his second Grand Slam quarter-final. Gulbis was surprisingly solid in the deciding set, needing just the one break of serve to win, 6-7(5) 7-6(3) 6-2 4-6 6-3 in three hours and 42 minutes. First and foremost, this was a stunning perfomance from Gulbis and he well and truly silenced a heavily pro-Federer crowd. I have an issue with these Parisien crowds. This was a great match, but I felt that the crowd sucked the life out of it a little, especially the deciding set, which Federer started so poorly.
Gulbis dominated the first set, but Federer won it on the tiebreak. Federer missed a regulation overhead to go a mini break down, but recovered to win it. He then served for the second set and had two set points. Federer got a little casual as he hit a shot pretty much straight back to Gulbis. The Latvian broke, held and then had break points at 5-5, which would have seen him have an opportunity to serve for the second set. He missed both and promptly destroyed his racquet, handing it to a lucky kid in the crowd. Federer held that game, but was unable to raise his level in the ensuing second set tiebreak, which Gulbis deservedly won. Those missed set points will probably be haunting Federer.
Gulbis played a magnificent third set, hitting 9 winners to just 2 unforced errors as he cracked the ball with alarming accuracy. He tailed off in the fourth set as a tense and tetchy Federer earnt a double break. Gulbis went off for a MTO for a lower back injury and was then promptly booed when he came back to the court. There were quite a few utterings that this was tactical. To be honest, I don’t buy it. For all his faults, I don’t think Gulbis is that kind of player. Ernie staged a mini revival but Federer finally wrapped up the decider.
Federer seemed really on edge in this match. He was yelling and roaring after points with real gusto and I have never seen him so vocal. He also looked to be in a pretty scratchy mood and I got the sense, he really, really wanted to win this match. Almost too much. Gulbis has been a pretty controversial character in the press and there was no way Rog wanted to lose to this dude. At the end of the fourth set, he was bouncing the ball and dropped it. The ball sailed off the court. This may seem like a complete non-event, but when do you see Roger do something like that? He looked tense all match and personally, I think he wasn’t fluid enough to play his best tennis on this day.
The final set began in pretty horrendous fashion as Federer gifted Gulbis the break with a flurry of unforced errors. Gulbis held his nerve, came through an especially tricky service game at *4-2 where he hit one thunderous backhand, and never looked back, securing the best win of his career. Gulbis has had a great year and has produced many consistent results. Perhaps his year was missing that big result… not any more. Below are some interesting tweets, which were posted during the match…