Los Angeles, Aug 1: Ernests Gulbis of Latvia won the Farmers Classic on Sunday, rallying past top-seeded Mardy Fish 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 for his second career ATP tour title.
Gulbis entered the tournament on a five-match losing streak, but the inconsistent 22-year-old with a ferocious serve outlasted Fish, the top-ranked American and world No. 9, in a 2-hour, 43-minute final.
“It's just a huge boost in confidence,” said Gulbis, who entered the tournament on a five-match losing streak. “I lost trust in myself that I can compete with the best guys. I knew it, but I was up and down. Mardy is a great player, and to beat him, now I've got my confidence back.”
Gulbis went ahead 5-1 in the third set, but nearly blew it. Fish broke Gulbis' serve and rallied to 5-4 before Gulbis won three straight points in the final game, culminating in a forehand winner down the line.
Gulbis, the scion of a wealthy Latvian investment banker, acknowledges his penchant for partying when he isn't breaking rackets. He was just 14 of 28 matches this season and hadn't won in more than two months before dominating the Farmers Classic, beating Xavier Malisse and former champ Juan Martin del Potro while losing just two sets in five matches.
After surviving that late stumble, Gulbis pumped his fist and flashed the peace sign to a loud group of his fans in the corner of Straus Stadium.
“I wasn't nervous when it was 5-2, and that's why I lost (that game),” Gulbis said. “It's good to be a little nervous.” With new coach Guillermo Canas and a renewed focus on his sport, Gulbis kept his concentration throughout the week in Westwood. Along with his $113,000 winner's check, he will move from No. 84 to No. 57 in the world rankings with his first victory since winning at Delray Beach last year.
“I knew he had not been in this situation since Delray Beach last year,” said Fish, who's still likely to move up to No. 8 next week. “I know how that feels. Guys get nervous and tight. I tried to exploit that a little bit.”
He had never beaten a top-10 player after the quarterfinals of any tournament before holding off Fish, who has been in the top 10 for the past 11 weeks of his remarkable year.
Fish, who won the Atlanta Tennis Championships last week, actually had more aces than Gulbis (14-10) and fewer unforced errors, but tired in the third set on a fairly hot day, losing pace on his serve and allowing Gulbis to take charge with back-to-back breaks. Fish also limped noticeably, favoring his right heel.
Fish seemed headed for back-to-back tournament titles after Gulbis double-faulted on set point in the first set. Gulbis finally broke Fish's serve midway through the second set before serving it out.
“Middle of the second set, I thought I had no chance winning the match,” Gulbis said. “He was returning everything, and I wasn't returning. Just two or three returns in, two or three points there, that's what turned it around.”
Fish saved two match points during his win over John Isner last week in Atlanta, but couldn't match that feat against Gulbis, who used back-to-back drop shots to erase a break point and to get to match point. After his winner landed, Gulbis pumped his fist and flashed the peace sign to a loud group of his fans in the corner of the stadium. AP