Two weeks into the New Year and Ernests Gulbis is ready to kick off his 2015 season with strong showings at the Heineken Open in Auckland. The Latvian will begin his week on Wednesday afternoon against rising Czech star Jiri Vesely. The two competitors have yet to cross paths on the ATP World Tour, which only adds to the intrigue ahead of their evening match-up.
Latvian No. 1 and all-around oddball Ernests Gulbis took part in a surprisingly strong season in 2014 – a year that saw him compile a 41-21 win-loss record; claim two titles (Marseille, Nice); and reach the semi-final round of the French Open, where he lost to world No. 1 Novak Djokovic. Now, he will look to add to his accomplishments this season and potentially break into the Top 10 on the tour. First, however, he will have to get past Vesely in a tough opening match of the season.
Ranked at No. 63 in the world, Jiri Vesely crusied through his fifth match of the season with a straight sets victory over Brazilian adversary Thomaz Bellucci. The young Czech prospect struck 10 aces and won 86% of his first service points, which made the contest exceedingly difficult for Bellucci. The Brazilian was unable to convert any of his six break point opportunities and allowed Vesely to break him to win the opening set. A tiebreak would settle the score in the second set before the contest ended in 1 hour and 35 minutes.
This marks the first time that Gulbis and Vesely will meet on the ATP World Tour and could potentially make for an enthralling encounter. Gulbis is known as a big-hitter in tennis and is more than capable of taking command of the contest. However, Vesely continues to improve himself and grow as a player – maybe that will help him pick up an upset over the Latvian?
Prediction: Ernests Gulbis in Three Sets