Tennis: Slumping Gulbis a stranger to stress amid disaster season

MONTE CARLO, Monaco (AFP) - Laid-back Latvian Ernests Gulbis refused to bow to stress on Monday, as the 13th seed exited timidly from the Monte Carlo Masters, a 6-1, 6-0 first-round victim of Austria's Andreas Haider-Maurer.

The admittedly slumping world No. 17 suffered his eighth loss in nine matches played this season, which began with a shoulder injury carried over from 2014 which disrupted his 2015 preparation.

Nevertheles, the 26-year-old who shocked the sport with a Roland Garros semi-final last spring, is far from panic stations.

With supreme logic, the loveable outsider quickly analysed the situation: "Have I ever won more than two rounds in this tournament? No. Is it something new? No.

"I'm still ranked in the top 20 in the world. I have a lot of points to defend, but no problem. Listen, I won two tournaments in south of France (in 2014), Marseille and Nice. I always play well in south of France. It's nothing.

"I focus every match, every place. Maybe it doesn't look like it, but I'm trying to give my best on every point.

"Unfortunately today was different reasons why I played like this. But, you know, no excuses. The guy won and that's it. I don't see the big problem. I'm playing well in practice."

Gulbis lasted for less than an hour against Heider-Maurer, who plays Australian Bernard Tomic in the second round at one of the most picturesque venues in tennis.

The Latvian, son of one of his Baltic country's major industrialists, finished last season in the ATP top 20 for the first time in his career. He played quarter-finals 11 times and won a career-high 41 matches, adding two more titles to comprise a total of six and a flawless 6-0 record in title matches.

But Gulbis remains calm as he works through his current situation.

Said the player now coached by former Swedish great Thomas Enqvist: "It's a lack of preparation, it's always tough for me to change from hard court to clay. Especially if I had a shitty season on hard court, to come play on clay, it's even tougher.

"I need couple weeks, I need this week, I need matches. I need to go to Barcelona next week. I need to practise."

In another first-round match, German Philipp Kohlschreiber defeated Kazakh Mikhail Kukushkin 6-4, 6-4.