Ernests Gulbis is arguably playing the best tennis of his career after reaching the fourth round of the 2014 French Open with a 6-3, 6-2, 7-5 win over Radek Stepanek. But he's making headlines for his off-court comments.
According to Mike Dawes of the Daily Mail, Gulbis balked at the idea of his sisters possibly following in his footsteps and becoming professional tennis players. The No. 17-ranked Latvian star then controversially explained his reasoning.
Hopefully they will not pursue professional tennis careers. Hopefully. Because for a woman, it's tough. ... I wouldn't like my sisters to become professional tennis players. It's a tough choice of life. A woman needs to enjoy life a little bit more. Needs to think about family, needs to think about kids.
Only Gulbis knows the true meaning behind his words, but his comments have inevitably been perceived by some as sexist in nature.
A deluge of responses flooded Twitter in the wake of the interview, and opinions certainly varied.
Hannah Wilks of Live Tennis went the sarcastic route by taking a shot at the volatility that has plagued Gulbis over the course of his up-and-down career:
To be fair, what woman could muster the kind of single-minded focus and intensity with which Gulbis has approached his tennis career?— Hannah Wilks (@newballsplease) May 30, 2014
Jane McManus of ESPNNewYork.com suggested that pursuing a tennis career is actually a great way for women to prepare for family life:
Agree w/ Ernests Gulbis that women need to think family, and what better way than by making them wildly rich as a tennis pro? Works for men.— Jane McManus (@janesports) May 30, 2014
The reaction wasn't totally negative, though, as Nicola Arzani of ATP attempted to rationalize Gulbis' statements:
@carole_bouchard he was talking about his sisters only - it was like other players saying they don't wish their kids play pro tennis— Nicola Arzani (@Nicarzani) May 30, 2014
While it is certainly possible that Gulbis was simply innocently referring to his sisters, he has to understand that gender equality remains a hot-button issue in tennis.
Do you believe that Gulbis' comments were malicious?
Female players have fought hard to gain equal pay and equal exposure, so his comments may very well end up striking a nerve within the tennis community.
His sisters don't appear to be taking his advice. His half-sister, Laura Gulbe, is 19 and has been playing competitive tennis since she was nine. She reached a top International Tennis Federation ranking of No. 192 and ranks No. 1,220 on the WTA tour. His other sister, Monika Kavace, is 16 and also plays tennis.
Controversy is the last thing that Gulbis needs to worry about, since a fourth-round match against Roger Federer at Roland Garros is looming. Gulbis is seeking his second career trip to the French Open quarterfinals and will receive even more media attention if he is able to upset Federer. It will be interesting to see how he handles the inevitable questions regarding his comments.
Gulbis has never been one to mince words, but he must tread very carefully moving forward in order to save face.
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