ROME, April 28- World number one Roger Federer insisted he was not worried by his second round defeat to Ernests Gulbis at the ATP Rome Masters 1000 and said it might even help him.Federer began well in his first clay court match of the season but his game then totally deserted him as he suffered a shock 2-6, 6-1, 7-5 defeat to the 40th ranked 21-year-old Latvian.
But the Swiss master seemed relaxed when talking about his match afterwards and even suggested that such a defeat isn’t a bad thing.
"It is easier to take because I’m used to winning so much so that sometimes when you get a loss … you can’t always win and sometimes it takes a loss to wake up and sort of shake your mind up and think about how you’re going to approach next week," he said.
"Because sometimes when you win it’s just too easy and too simple. When you lose, you actually realise how tough it is to dominate this knock-out system we have in tennis which is brutal."
Having begun his clay court season relatively late, Federer said he was pleased he had already decided to play in Estoril next week and then Madrid after that as he looks to build up some clay form ahead of the French Open.
"I’m not too worried, I’m more curious to see how next week goes. It always goes like that when you touch a new surface and you play your first match.
"If you lose early you can’t wait for the next tournament to come around. That’s the way I feel.
"It’s frustrating … because I think there could have been good tennis at the back end of the tournament but I didn’t get the chance to build any momentum and confidence so I’ll have to do some hard yards now and win some ugly matches.
"The semis and finals are where I play my best tennis and so hopefully in Estoril."
Federer paid tribute to his young conqueror and said it was no surprise to see Gulbis doing well.
"This is the second time I have played him. I played him in Qatar and won in three sets.
"I’d always thought he had great potential when I watched him play, he has immense power on both sides.
"He has a wonderful serve, perhaps one of the fastest second serves in the game.
"I think he has a great future ahead of him. I think he’s made his move a bit — you know winning at Delray Beach — so I think he’s a bit more relaxed.
"His ranking goes up, he wins in smaller tournaments so his seeding goes up and that maybe makes him go further. It will be interesting to see his evolution."
A crucial part of Gulbis’s evolution was learning how to close out a match against a player of Federer’s standing, something the Latvian found very imposing.
He had two match points on Federer’s serve at 5-3 in the decider and four more on his own serve in the next game before Federer’s unforced errors finally handed him the match two games later.
And Gulbis admitted he had cracked.
"I just shat in my pants a little bit, sorry for the language but that’s how I felt," he said.
"I couldn’t hit my serve in, I didn’t know what to do, I was shocked, it was a terrible feeling."
Gulbis has made a marked improvement this season and he puts that down to a change of attitude.
"I’ve started to concentrate more on tennis and treat it more like a job whereas last year I was treating it like a hobby," he said.
"I didn’t have a system in my practising but I’ve changed coaches, both tennis and fitness, I’m working harder and spending more time on the court.
"Before I would maybe practise three days and then not for two days and go out with my friends.
"I’m still not a big tennis freak, I’m the same person I was, I’m just thinking more about what I’m doing in tournaments and in practice."