By Alison Williams
PARIS (Reuters) - After flirting with a major breakthrough during a career that promised more than it has delivered Ernests Gulbis has finally tasted the tennis big time, and now he wants more.
The Latvian showman came off the loser against second seed Novak Djokovic in their French Open semi-final on Friday but after felling Swiss master Roger Federer and Czech Tomas Berdych during his deepest run into a major, he is poised to move into the world's top 10 for the first time.
Gulbis's work ethic has not always been the best but after years of treating training with indifference and squandering his many on-court talents with a fun-loving lifestyle, the 25-year-old's new attitude was summed up by his mood after a 6-3 6-3 3-6 6-3 defeat by the Serb.
"I'm not going to celebrate. It's not enough. I need to reach more now. Now I'm addicted to success, really," Gulbis, who looked set for stardom when he reached the French Open quarter-finals in 2008, told reporters.
"I felt the success so close, and I don't say that I let it slip, these two weeks, because it's great to play semi-final. I need to make this extra step now. I'm extra motivated now."
Neither he nor Djokovic played anywhere near their best tennis in a match which seemed to be swinging Gulbis's way when he powered through the third set.
At times, Gulbis matched Djokovic's athleticism and displayed flashes of almost casual brilliance, despite the tension and nerves he said he felt reaching his first major semi-final at the 27th time of asking.
With the claycourt season about to give way to the brief grasscourt swing, Gulbis will head to London for the Aegon Championships before setting his sights on Wimbledon.
He reached the third round there last year before losing to Fernando Verdasco - his best run - but with a huge serve and penetrating groundstrokes he will be expected to better that this year at the All England Club.
His task now will be to underline his new-found maturity.
"The more I play these kind of matches, the more I'm going to get used to these situations," he said.
"For me, I take only the positive stuff out of it. Yeah, I need to be in these situations once, twice, three times, you know, and then I can maybe make that extra step."
He was not about to start making bold predictions about what might happen in Paris, however.
"No emotions. I'll go on court, I play my game. If I lose first round, I lose first round. What can I do? I'm going to give my best and fight till the last point.
"That's it. That's all can I do."
(Reporting by Alison Williams; editing by Martyn Herman)