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Gulbis grasps maiden title in Delray Beach

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Originally published on: 05/03/10 15:46

Ernests Gulbis has become the first Latvian to clinch an ATP title after defeating Ivo Karlovic 6-2 6-3 to win the Delray Beach International Tennis Championships.

The victory propels the 21-year-old 27 places up the rankings to 45 – seven places shy of the career-high ranking he achieved in August 2008 – after nullifying the threat of the big-serving Croat on his 31st birthday.

And though Karlovic had held 46 of his 47 service games to reach the final, Gulbis broke his serve four times to come out on top after 80 minutes amid difficult conditions in Delray Beach.

“It was really windy today; it was tough wind. I think he couldn’t really get really good timing for the serve,” said Gulbis of his opponent’s trademark weapon. “He wasn’t hitting so many first serves in. I knew what I had to do against him”.

Gulbis became the second first-time winner of an ATP tour event, joining American John Isner who won the Heineken Open title in Auckland earlier this year, and it is a victory that he hopes will encourage the growth of the game in his homeland.

“I hope it’s positive,” he said. “I hope much more players will start to practise in Latvia. It’s good for tennis in Latvia. They see that a guy from Latvia also can make it and win an ATP World Tour event.”

The victory tops a positive start to the year for Gulbis who, having waited until June to win his tenth ATP tour level match of 2009, has already picked up ten wins to four losses just two months into this season.

He opened 2010 with a quarter-final showing in Doha, before making his first semi-final since 2006 in Memphis where he lost to eventual champ Sam Querrey.

Defeated finalist Karlovic praised his opponent for his display and predicted a big year ahead for the young Lativian.

“He was playing really good,” said last year’s Wimbledon quarter-finalist. “He was very cool, calm. Nothing could impress him. This year is going to be his breakthrough.”

Upbeat despite his birthday loss, the Croatian nailed a tournament-high of 89 aces during his week on the Florida coast, including a less than average 14 in the final.

“I was playing well all week,” said Karlovic. “Today it was a little bit worse. This is life. Sometimes you play good, sometimes you play not so good.

“What is important I’m healthy and overall I was playing well all this year. Next week is Davis Cup, after Indian Wells, so I will look forward to that.”

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