16 Feb Familiar Faces Advance in Qualifying
Two-Time Winner Gulbis Into Main Draw
By STEVE DORSEY
DELRAY BEACH, Fla. – Ernests Gulbis has enjoyed his fair share of success playing at the Delray Beach Open by VITACOST.com, where he has captured two of this six career ATP Tour titles. He lifted the singles championship trophy here the last time in 2013 when he battled through the two-day qualifying matches en route to the title.
Gulbis hopes he can rekindle that magical run here again this week at the Delray Beach Stadium and Tennis Center. The 31-year-old right-hander from Latvia took a step in that direction Sunday when he breezed to a 6-2, 6-0 win against Australia’s Bernard Tomic on the final day of qualifying, earning Gulbis a spot in the main draw that begins play Monday. Tomic later earned a spot in the main draw as a lucky loser entry, replacing Tennys Sandgren who withdrew citing a left knee injury. .
“It’s a good place. I have a good relationship with Delray Beach,” said Gulbis, who also won here in 2010 and has compiled a 12-2 career record in the main draw at the tournament.
Gulbis reached a career-best No. 10 world ranking in 2014, a year after he last won in Delray, but he has not won a title since ’14. He struggled with a right wrist injury for much of 2015-17 and he arrived in Delray Beach this weekend with a ranking of No. 190.
Gulbis said he’s “near 100 percent” healthy now and is pleased with how he’s been playing lately. He won three qualifying matches and reached the third round at the Australian Open before losing to Frenchman Gael Monfils (currently ranked No. 9 in the world).
“I’ve been playing well since the beginning of the year,” said Gulbis, who will face American Reilly Opelka, the No. 4 seed here, in his first-round match. “I played decent in Australia, (reached) third round and also went through qualifying, so five matches I won there. So it’s been good since the start of the year. I just want to get my ranking as fast as possible back to the Top 100, because it’s okay to play qualies from time to time but not always. I’m not getting any younger.”
The other three qualifier winners Sunday who notched berths in the main draw were Cameron Norrie of Great Britain, American Noah Rubin and Emilio Gomez of Ecuador.
Norrie, the No. 1 seed in the qualifying draw, rallied from down a set to beat Mitchell Krueger of the U.S. 4-6, 6-2, 7-6(5). Norrie drew American Taylor Fritz, the No. 3 seed, as his first-round opponent.
Rubin ousted Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(6), saving one match point in the third set tie-break to secure the victory. He will meet Jason Jung of Taipei in the first round.
Gomez beat American Stefan Kozlov 6-3, 6-2 in the final match of the day. Gomez is the son of Andres Gomez, who played the inaugural tournament in 1993 when it was held in nearby Coral Springs, becoming the first father and son to have played in the South Florida tournament. Gomez’s will play the first round Monday night against American Frances Tiafoe, the 2018 singles champion.