Fifth seed Gulbis crashes out in first round

The Latvian fifth seed squandered an early break and 4-1 lead in the first set, with Istomin winning six of the seven games thereafter to clinch the opener.

By Alex Leach - Senior Reporter

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Published: Wed 25 Feb 2015, 12:56 AM

Last updated: Thu 25 Jun 2015, 10:45 PM

Dubai — Ernests Gulbis became the first seeded player to crash out of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Monday as he slumped to a straight-sets defeat to Uzbekistan’s Denis Istomin 7-5, 6-2. The Latvian fifth seed squandered an early break and 4-1 lead in the first set, with Istomin winning six of the seven games thereafter to clinch the opener.

Denis Istomin plays a forehand against Ernests Gulbis. — KT photo by Rahul Gajjar

Gulbis then lost his initial service game in the second set with three double faults from advantage in and another break in the seventh game gave Istomin more than sufficient daylight on the scoreboard to close out this victory.

“I’m not in good form right now,” conceded Gulbis, who has now lost six first-round matches in a row stretching back to October last year. “I’m not feeling my shots at all; I have no timing. I have been playing worse in practice than in the match. The match was bad.

“It definitely worries me because it’s a big part of my life. To become the best I can be on the tennis court is probably the most important short-term goal of my life. But, does it keep me awake in the night? No. Federer is a clear example of a player who can change his game not even during one match, but one game. He tries a lot of different things. He changes and adjusts himself very well. That’s why he’s that good.

“It’s very difficult for me to adjust myself and it always has been. It’s a matter of finding this feeling and then continuing to work on it. 

“I’m a repetition kind of guy. I need to play the same shot for many hours and then I get confident, I feel fit and it’s like I’m not going to miss. Now, when the ball comes to me, I feel like it’s a 50/50 chance and I don’t really control my shots. This is the worst feeling to be on the court with.”

Earlier, Irish wildcard James McGee saw his inaugural appearance here last a little over an hour as he was beaten in straight sets by Portugal’s Joao Sousa 6-1, 6-2. The world number 210 was understandably disappointed not to produce his best tennis on the Centre Court stage, even if he was up against a player in Sousa ranked 160 places above him in the global standings.

Nonetheless, he could have few complaints about the whole experience overall. McGee has practised with two top 10 players in Tomas Berdych and Andy Murray after all and enjoyed a week far removed from the harsher realities of life on the Challenger Tour. “That was certainly a new experience for me,” McGee admitted afterwards.

“It’s exactly what I need. I’ve been thrown in at the deep end this week and you’ve just got to learn how to swim. It’s as simple as that.

“I just started off on a bit of a bad note today (Monday). I didn’t come out swinging and playing relaxed tennis the way I know that I can.

“But, just having the experience to come here and share the hotel and all of that with the other players, it’s huge. Moving forward, I will feel like I have been in this environment before, so – the next time it happens – it’s not going to be so new to me. It was invaluable. I’m just very grateful for the experience.”

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