Two steps forward, one step back in Asia
Ernests displayed some of his best tennis of the season during the current Asian swing of hard court tournaments, after he reached his first quarterfinal in over a year in Tokyo and stretched the top-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to three tiebreak sets in Bangkok, despite a minor blip in his baffling loss to Fabio Fognini in Shanghai.
He battled his way past Junn Mitsuhashi and Dominik Meffert in the Tokyo qualifying, only to find himself facing Davis Cup finalist, Radek Stepanek, in the first round.
Ernests, however, exceeded expectations with a display of fearsome hitting. He served 13 aces and saved all five break points against him to overpower the sixth-seeded Czech.
In the next round, he had his Argentine opponent, Juan Monaco, well under control before the latter retired when down 3:6 1:4 due to a right hip injury.
The retirement propelled Ernests into his first quarterfinal since the 2008 Cincinnati Masters, where he once again was drawn to play against Tsonga.
Alas, it was not his day to break his losing record against the Frenchman, as he once again capitulated after capturing the first set.
His quarterfinal defeat was also unfortunate on another level, as he would arrive too late in Shanghai to play in the qualifying but was ineligible for the Masters event’s special exemption slot, which is reserved for a player who reached the semi-finals or better of Tokyo or Beijing.
It was yet another stroke of luck which ruled in his favour after the Shanghai organisers then decided to award him with a wildcard into the main draw.
Having been paired up in the first round against unheralded Italian qualifier, Fabio Fognini, whom he had beaten in a Davis Cup tie last year, Ernests was expected to progress to the second round against Novak Djokovic with no drama.
However, Ernests has never been known to conform to expectations, and suffered a straight sets loss to the Italian in an inglorious end to his Asian campaign.
Nevertheless, Ernests appeared to be on track to getting his game into order, and credited his new coach, Hernan Gumy, for his new-found focus.
He will now return to Europe for the final month of the season.
He is an alternate in both Moscow and Stockholm, which will be played next week, where it is likely that he will have to compete in the qualifying unless last-minute withdrawals ensure him a spot in the main draw.
He is the second alternate in St Petersburg, scheduled for the following week, where he has played since his ATP debut in 2006.
The final fortnight of the year will feature tournaments in Basel and Valencia, as well as the Paris Indoors Masters in Bercy. Ernests did not make the main draw for any of these events as at the sign-in deadline, but he may still compete in the qualifying rounds.