Davis Cup: Team Latvia
Latvian tennis has been progressing quietly but steadily in recent years, as Ernests’ exploits begin to put the small country on the world tennis map. His compatriots are a group of young players who are regulars on the Challenger and Futures circuits.
In 2007, they achieved a significant milestone in the Davis Cup by whitewashing Monaco 5-0 in front of a home crowd in Jūrmala to qualify for the prestigious Europe/Africa Group I for the first time, joining countries such as Croatia and Switzerland.
LATVIA 1 – FYR MACEDONIA 4
Their 2008 campaign hit an early obstacle after being drawn to face Macedonia in an away tie on clay. The Latvians were traditionally less comfortable on clay than they would be on faster surfaces, which are more favourable towards their big-serving games.
It did not help that they resembled a collection of the walking wounded. At the time of the tie, Ernests was nursing a knee injury, Andis Juška had to retire from the Australian Open qualifying less than a month before that with an abdominal muscle strain, and Deniss Pavlovs had just recovered from a wrist injury.
Nevertheless, Ernests’ five-set loss against Lazar Magdincev, then ranked #724 in the world, still came as a shock. He was replaced in the doubles with Juška, as the dismal weekend was rounded up with a 1-4 loss to Macedonia. Latvia’s lone victory came in the dead rubber with Deniss Pavlovs defeating Tomislav Jotovski in straight sets.
LATVIA 2 – ITALY 3
Latvia travelled to Montecatini in September to face the fancied Italian team, whose lowest-ranked member was the world No. 93. In contrast, Andis Juška, the second Latvian, was ranked No. 394 that week.
Faced with such insurmountable odds, Latvia was defeated by Italy but after a closer fight than expected. Ernests single-handedly earned Latvia both of their points by defeating Fabio Fognini and Andreas Seppi in the single, despite being down two sets to love in the latter match.
Andis Juška gamely punched above his weight, teaming up with Ernests in the doubles and stretching Seppi and Starace in the singles. However, the Italian team proved too strong in the end and relegated Latvia to Group II in 2009, where they will face Moldova in the opening round.
Ernests has announced that he will skip the upcoming tie against Moldova, as it will be played up to the very day before the Indian Wells tournament is due to commence in the United States. As a Masters Series event, participation in Indian Wells is compulsory and players who withdraw without a valid reason will face sanctions and a suspension.
LATVIA 5 – MOLDOVA 0
The Latvian team did not let Ernests’ absence get in the way of business as they whitewashed the visiting Moldavian team in the first round of the Group II competition. Deniss Pavlovs and Andis Juška set the tone on the first day, winning two singles rubbers before pairing up to clinch the tie in the doubles.
Not to be outdone, Kārlis Lejnieks and Adrians Žguns notched victories of their own on the final day, comfortably seeing the hosts through to the next round against Bulgaria in July.
LATVIAN ATP PLAYERS
|Ernests Gulbis||Andis Juška||Deniss Pavlovs||Kārlis Lejnieks|
|30 August 1988||22 May 1985||15 April 1983||16 March 1988|
|1 December 1981||2 January 1980|