MARSEILLE, France (AP) — Third-seeded Ernests Gulbis of Latvia showed he has the temperament for big matches, extending his perfect record in finals to 5-0 after beating defending champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France 7-6 (5), 6-4 to win the Open 13 title on Sunday.
Gulbis, ranked 23rd, beat France’s two best players in straight sets on his way to the title, having eliminated the top-seeded Richard Gasquet 6-3, 6-2 in the semifinals.
“It’s a really nice record for me. Five-nil is really good. I remember when I used to play Futures and Challengers, I think I lost maybe one or two finals,” Gulbis said. “When I get into finals I really have good form and good confidence and play my best tennis.”
This time last year, the 25-year-old Gulbis was ranked outside the Top 100, but is now on the verge of breaking into the Top 20.
“My long-term goal in tennis isn’t to be Top 20. It’s to be No. 1,” Gulbis said. “Anything less than that wouldn’t make me fully satisfied. I don’t want to get to 30 years old, look back on my career and say I didn’t make something of it. Everybody’s looking for satisfaction in life.”
Playing in his 19th career final, the second-seeded Tsonga was favorite to win the Open 13 for the third time and to secure an 11th career title, but he struggled with Gulbis’ attacking approach.
“I think (the top players) feel threatened by my game, because they know if I serve well and I’m aggressive, then it’s tough to play against me,” Gulbis said. “I don’t feel I’m in the same league as the (Top 4) yet, I need to prove it. Game-wise, I think that I can be.”
Tsonga was under pressure throughout, saving 10 of the 11 break-points he faced and failing to take the two chances he created on the serve of Gulbis, who had 14 aces and hit 41 winners compared to 22 for his opponent.
“I have no regrets. I gave everything I had,” Tsonga said. “I played a pretty good match, but I needed a bit more belief and needed to show a bit more instinct on my returns of serve. But he was solid, he served very well and took a lot of risks.”