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By Chris Oddo | Thursday July 6, 2017

Wimbledon fans might want to put an asterisk next to the number 589 when it comes to Latvia’s Ernest Gulbis. That’s his actual ranking but in reality the former Top 10er is a much more dangerous athlete than, say, World No. 588 Cristobal Saavedra-Corvalen.

That said, Gulbis' expectations aren’t exactly high after he stunned Juan Martin del Potro on Day 4 to set up a third-round clash with Novak Djokovic.

“I came here without any expectations,” Gulbis told reporters after knocking off No.30-seeded Del Potro, 6-4, 6-4, 7-6(3) on a hot, muggy day at Wimbledon. “I didn't know if I'm going to -- I didn't know if I'm going to win a set here honestly. Now I won six sets in a row. First round really comfortable. This match playing really good. I don't want to look too far.”

Working against Gulbis is the fact that he just picked up his first ATP win in over a year in his first-round match at SW19, and he’s been nursing a litany of injuries that have kept him from finding his form.

“I had two muscle tears, one in the calf, one in abdominal,” Gulbis told an intimate gathering of reporters. He also mentioned a wrist injury, but in this press conference he was only talking about his “recent” injuries. “Actually, I came to Roland Garros same like I did here: without playing any points. I tore my calf muscle in Estoril. So it took me a while to recover.”

It’s certainly a stretch to imagine that Gulbis can challenge three-time Wimbledon champion Djokovic on Saturday, but the Latvian does have a victory over the Serb and he has won a set in each of their last two meetings. But the former World No.10 does seem to carry an air of improbability with him wherever he goes. He's talented enough that he should have chances to keep it close with Djokovic, if he serves well and keeps Djokovic on the defense. Most important—Gulbis' low expectations come packaged with a relaxed vibe.

“I've been hitting the ball well already for more than a month,” he said. “Here, movement is important. But it's different kind of movement, you know. I don't need to slide. I don't need to rally that much. My shots are really clean right now. I feel very confident on both sides.

“As soon as I'm relaxed, you know, I can produce this kind of tennis.”


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