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Gulbis eyeing Federer scalp
Ernests Gulbis re-emerged as a grand slam threat at the French Open on Friday and has his sights set on upsetting Roger Federer in the fourth round.
Remarkably, considering his enormous talent, Gulbis had lost in either the first or second round in 20 of his last 21 slams since reaching the quarter-finals of the French Open as a 19-year-old in 2008.
The 25-year-old, who is part of one of the wealthiest families in Latvia, has been better known for his straight talking than his tennis over the past few years.
At Roland Garros last year, where he lost in the second round, Gulbis made headlines by labelling the top four, and Federer in particular, boring.
Controversy follows Gulbis around, almost all of his own making, and there was more of the same on Friday after his victory over Radek Stepanek as he addressed the subject of his younger sisters playing tennis.
He said: "Hopefully they will not pursue professional tennis careers. Hopefully. Because for a woman, it's tough.
"I wouldn't like my sisters to become professional tennis players. It's a tough choice of life. A woman needs to enjoy life a little bit more. Needs to think about family, needs to think about kids."
Gulbis is at least making headlines for his tennis as well these days.
He has won two titles this season, most recently last weekend in Nice, and is at a career-high ranking of 17.
Gulbis is the first to admit he only has himself to blame for not making the most of his talent earlier in his career but, having been ranked outside the top 130 at the start of last year, he has swiftly headed in the right direction.
He said: "I'm jumping on the last train. I'm 25, so this was my last opportunity to be really successful, I think."
Federer and Gulbis have played three times before, all in 2010 and all of them close, with the Swiss winning twice.
Gulbis said: "I have a game plan. I know how I'm going to play him.
"You don't need to be scared to do certain things against him, because most of the people, they go on the court and they lose already the match before it has started. I can tell you that's not going to be the case with me."
Federer and Novak Djokovic both had long and testing matches on Friday, with the Swiss defeating Dmitry Tursunov 7-5 6-7 (7/9) 6-2 6-4, helped by the Russian suffering a groin injury at the start of the third set.
He knows he will have another battle on his hands, saying: "Clearly he has to be confident after winning a tournament last week and now backing it up again here this week and cruising through, really. I'm aware of the challenge ahead of me."
Second seed Djokovic, many people's title favourite, was involved in a match of two halves against Marin Cilic that resulted in a 6-3 6-2 6-7 (2/7) 6-4 victory.
The Serbian said: "I complicated my own life there in the fourth. In important moments I held my nerves and I'm very happy that I went through."
Next up for Djokovic is a meeting with home hero Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who is coming into form at just the right time and defeated Jerzy Janowicz 6-4 6-4 6-3.
They have faced each other 16 times before, with Djokovic winning 11, including three of their four grand-slam matches.
Their first meeting was in the 2008 Australian Open final - Tsonga's only grand slam final - while the Frenchman also missed four match points in losing to Djokovic at the French Open two years ago.
Tsonga said: "I defeated him many times but not in the big moments. He's spoiled my career, to a certain extent. I wish that I could be in a position to turn the tables.
"It would be a good idea to end the meal with dessert and not an orange jam that is bitter."
Eighth seed Milos Raonic survived a five-set tussle with France's Gilles Simon while s ixth seed Tomas Berdych dropped a set against in-form Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut and next meets John Isner.
The 10th seed won a three-hour battle with Tommy Robredo in four sets to become the first American man to make the fourth round of a grand slam since Andy Roddick at the 2012 US Open.