Ernests Gulbis Faces Fury of Feminists before Facing Federer

Ernests Gulbis Faces Fury of Feminists before Facing Federer

Are all those women saying Ernests Gulbis is “sexy” or “sexist”? I can’t quite make it out.  

When 17th-ranked Ernests Gulbis takes the clay against Roger Federer–a man he labels “boring”–on Sunday in the fourth round of the French Open, he may feel as though he has jumped from frying pan to fire.

The outspoken Latvian again made headlines on Friday with his mouth rather than his racket. A reporter asked him about the prospects of his teenage sisters turning professional. “Hopefully, they will not pursue professional tennis career,” Gulbis responded. “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.” His nineteen-year-old sister, Laura Gulbe, has already turned professional.

Gulbis’s concerns focus on the difficulties in raising a family and playing professional tennis. “A woman needs to enjoy life a little bit more,” he opined. “Needs to think about family, needs to think about kids. What kids you can think about until age of 27 if you’re playing professional tennis, you know. That’s tough for a woman, I think.”

Chris Evert evidently thought so. She aborted Jimmy Connors’ kid during her tennis heyday in the mid-1970s. Her father cited “lucrative financial opportunities” in tennis as a reason for the couple not to marry. And the three-time Wimbledon winner started a family only after she stopped her career. Like Gulbis, Evert seems to have understood that you can have Grand Slam championships and you can have babies–just not at the same time.

If Gulbis said balancing tennis and family were easy for women, he would have invited trouble. That he says it’s difficult coaxes a very different kind of controversy, albeit from people looking for controversies.

Sports Illustrated, like a number of British papers, labels his observations “sexist.” It’s not the first time the label has been slammed at Gulbis. He opined last year, “I like joint tournaments because at least you see some ladies around.” And, like his hearth-home-and-tennis comments, what might the response have been if he had said the opposite?