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Ricky Looks At ATP Tennis • Ernests Gulbis Goes From Qualies To Quarterfinals In Stockholm London Quest For John Isner

Ernests Gulbis of Latvia plays Matteo Berrettini of Italy during their men?s second round match during the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, 30 May 2018. EPA-EFE/GUILLAUME HORCAJUELO
Ernests Gulbis of Latvia plays Matteo Berrettini of Italy during their men’s second round match during the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, 30 May 2018.  EPA-EFE/GUILLAUME HORCAJUELO

 

 

By Ricky Dimon

 

The Intrum Stockholm Open may be a 250-point event, but at the current juncture its importance in the race to London cannot be underestimated. With Juan Martin Del Potro’s likely absence from the Nitto ATP Finals, a real race is developing for the all-important No. 9 spot. It is likely coming down to John Isner and Kei Nishikori, with Isner playing this week in Stockholm while Nishikori rests.

 

Isner got passed by Nishikori while skipping the Asian swing after becoming a new father, but the 6’10” American can pass him back with one more win this week. He kicked off his campaign on Thursday evening by surviving a 7-6(2), 6-7(5), 7-6(5) thriller against compatriot Bradley Klahn after two hours and 23 minutes. Unsurprisingly, there was not single service break in the entire contest.

 

“It was extremely tough; I didn’t think it was going to be that tough,” said Isner, referencing the fact that he should have sealed the deal in straight sets but blew a 5-2 lead in the middle tiebreaker. “But who knows; I think I needed a match like that to try to get me going.”

 

Ernests Gulbis has already been going and going for quite some time in Stockholm. The 145th-ranked player in the world started his tournament last weekend, as he had to qualify just to get into the main draw. He successfully accomplished that feat, beat Swedish wild card Mikael Ymer in the first round, and then cruised past No. 7 seed Denis Shapovalov 6-2, 6-4 on Thursday night.

 

Gulbis double-faulted a ridiculous eight times, but he was clutch when it mattered most–going 5-for-5 on break-point situations during the match (2-for-2 saved, 3-for-3 converted).

 

The Latvian, who has been plagued by injuries in recent years, is making his first successful run since reaching the Wimbledon fourth round as a qualifier this summer.

 

Next up for the former world No. 10 is Jack Sock, who leads the head-to-head series 1-0 but has been nothing short of a disaster in singles throughout 2018. In fact, Sock is currently No. 162 in the season-long race–just one year after playing in the Nitto ATP Finals.

 

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @TennGrand.

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