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At the Net: Gulbis' stock continues to rise

<p>Ernests Gulbis just so happens to be one of he hottest tennis players on the planet right now.</p>

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Ernests Gulbis just so happens to be one of he hottest tennis players on the planet right now.

The lanky Latvian is playing the best tennis of his career this season and at the time of this article he was already into the French Open semifinals, marking his first-ever trip into a Grand Slam final four.

EG may have stunned some outsiders over the weekend when he dismissed 17-time Grand Slam king Roger Federer in the fourth round at the French, but it came as no surprise to those of us who cover the sport on a daily basis. Federer, though still quite capable, is no longer the formidable opponent he once was. The intimidation factor is all but gone, especially for a confident player on the rise like Gulbis.

The Latvian took down the Swiss legend in five sets at Roland Garros, where he then followed up that performance by taking down sixth-seeded former Wimbledon runner-up Tomas Berdych in the quarters.

The last eight players to defeat Federer at a Grand Slam tournament lost in their next match, but Gulbis broke that spell this week.

And by dousing both Federer and Berdych, Gulbis recorded back-to-back top-10 victories at the same tournament for the second time in his career. He first accomplished the feat back in February, when he upset Frenchmen Richard Gasquet and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to win a title in Marseille.

Unfortunately for Gulbis, his semifinal opponent in Paris will be a red-hot Novak Djokovic (the 22-time Grand Slam semifinalist Djokovic), who will take a 10-match winning streak into the affair.

Not to be outdone, the 6-foot-3, 25-year-old Gulbis is in the midst of a nine- match winning streak and already owns a pair of titles in France this season, including one in Nice just one day before the 2014 French Open commenced. He's a perfect 13-0 on French soil for the year.

Gulbis has not lost to a seeded player at a Grand Slam event since the 2010 Australian Open, compiling a 5-0 mark in the process, and also has five wins against top-10 players this year.

"It's very special," he said of his run in Paris after taking down Berdych.

Did You Know?: Gulbis has never lost in six finals on the ATP World Tour, with four of his titles coming over the last two seasons.

Prior to this week, the uber-talented Gulbis had only appeared in one Grand Slam quarterfinal, and that occurred six long years ago at the French. Heck, he still has yet to get past the second round at the Aussie and third round at Wimbledon. And his best U.S. Open showing was a fourth-round appearance back in 2007.

He's currently appearing in his 27th major.

The bulk of his Grand Slam success seems to be coming on the French clay, but Ernie still says that hardcourt is his preferred surface.

The 10-year pro is currently a career-high 17th in the world, and that number is going to improve when the newest world rankings are released on Monday. He'll break into the top 10 unless he loses to Djokovic and Gael Monfils captures the French Open title.

Did You Know?: Gulbis comes from a very wealthy family and his book-collecting parents named him after Ernest Hemingway.

The surging Gulbis has reached at least the quarterfinals in four of his last five tournaments, all on clay, including the title in Nice and a semifinal in Barcelona.

Can Gulbis beat the Djoker this week? Probably not ... but I'm sure no one's told Ernie.

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