Gulbis: Female tennis stars "need to think about kids"

Ernests Gulbis returns to Radek Stepanek during their third round match at Roland Garros.

Story highlights

  • Ernests Gulbis says female tennis players need to think about kids when considering career
  • Female tennis players can't have kids until late 20s and "that's tough" Gulbis said
  • Maria Sharapova tells reporters not to take Gulbis comments seriously

Ernests Gulbis is no stranger to a controversial comment.

The Latvian tennis star once described the press conferences of Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray as boring.

Then there was the time he said the fact that marijuana was legal in the Netherlands was one of the reasons he liked playing in Rotterdam so much (although he quickly added that he didn't smoke himself, he just liked that way of thinking).

Now, Gulbis has caused a stir thanks to his views on the sport's female players, telling reporters at the French Open in Paris he hopes his younger sisters don't become tennis professionals because women need to think about having children.

"Hopefully they're not going to pursue a professional tennis career," Gulbis said. "A woman needs to enjoy life a little bit more, needs to think about family, needs to think about kids."

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He added that female tennis players can't think about having kids until they are in their late 20s, and "that's tough for a woman."

Unsurprisingly, Gulbis' comments were picked up on social media sites Friday with many decrying the remarks as sexist.

But Maria Sharapova, who defeated Paula Ormaechea 6-0, 6-0 Friday to move into the fourth round of the ladies draw, played down any controversy.

"I don't think we can take everything serious when he speaks," Sharapova laughingly said in her post match press conference. "I think he's great entertainment and we love to listen to what he has to say."

"I think the sport brings so many opportunities to women. I mean, it's brought me so many things into my life and my career. I don't regret any step that I have taken."

Gulbis was speaking after defeating Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic 6-3, 6-2, 7-5.

He now advances to play Roger Federer in the fourth round after the Swiss overcame Dmitry Tursunov 7-5 6-7 (9/7) 6-2 6-4.

Gulbis, who has risen to a career high world ranking of 17 thanks to a fine run of form this year, has never made the fourth round of a major before but admitted he was keen to make up for lost time.

"Until the last two years I would be consistent for say three months, then I got sick or went to Latvia and took stupid ten days off," he said.

"Now I'm jumping on the last train. I'm 25 so this is my last opportunity to be really successful."

Gulbis and Federer were joined in the fourth round later in the day by world No 2 Novak Djokovic who battled past Croatia's Marin Cillic 6-3 6-2 6-7 (7-2) 6-4.

The Serb, who dropped a set against Cilic for only the third time in nine meetings, will now face home-favorite Jo Wilfred Tsonga for a place in the quarter finals.

"Physically I had to work very hard, because he was very aggressive, and I could expect that," Djokovic said of his opponent after the match. "(But) In important moments I held my nerves and, you know, I'm very happy that I went through."

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Elsewhere in the men's draw, John Isner overcame Tommy Robredo of Spain 7-6 (15-13) 7-6 (7-3) 6-7 (7-5) 7-5.

The big-serving American will now meet Thomas Berdych in round four after the Czech beat Spain's Roberto Bautista Agut.

Radwanska stunned

The women's draw witnessed yet another shock Friday as third-seed Agnieszka Radwanska lost to unseeded Croat Ajla Tomljanovic.

The Pole went down 6-4 6-4 in the first game of the day on Philippe Chatrier and follows top seeds Serena Williams and Li Na in making an unexpected an early exit at Roland Garros.

"After seeing the two first seeds go out, (I) feel like I can do this too. I grew up with these girls that are beating them... obviously, you respect everyone, but you don't fear anyone," Tomljanovic told reporters.

The highest ranking player left in the ladies competition is now fourt seed Simona Halep of Romania who doesn't play her third round match against Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor until Saturday.

Elsewhere on Friday, Angelique Kerber of Germany beat Slovakia's Daniela Hantuchova 7-5, 6-3 and will now face 18th seed Eugenie Bouchard of Canada for a place in the quarters.

Meanwhile, Samantha Stosur overcame Dominika Cibulkova 6-4, 6-4 to set up a fourth round tie with Maria Sharapova.

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