Blake soaring, Ginepri stumbling

5/30/2006 - Tennis

PARIS -- James Blake and Robby Ginepri were revelations at the 2005 U.S. Open.

Their previous best effort in 27 previous Grand Slams combined were trips to the fourth round, but last fall the young Americans outdid themselves. Blake reached the quarterfinals -- shocking second-seeded Rafael Nadal in the third round -- before losing to eventual finalist Andre Agassi. Ginepri crashed into the semifinals before Agassi also ended his run.

They both finished strong, with Ginepri posting a career-best No. 17 ranking and Blake right behind at No. 24.

This year, they have followed divergent paths.

While Blake has accelerated, winning tournaments in Sydney and Las Vegas and compiling a 25-12 record, Ginepri has struggled, losing eight of 12 matches.

The trend continued on Monday. No. 8 seed Blake defeated Paradorn Srichaphan 6-0, 6-4, 7-6 (3) in a match that required a scant 92 minutes. At times, Blake looked like he was playing on a hard court, lashing huge forehands and dominating his service games. At others, Blake looked like a clay-court veteran, sliding with confidence and putting more spin on his usually flat forehand.

"I'm hoping I keep moving forward, keep progressing," Blake said. "I feel like I'm getting better, especially on clay. Hopefully, that continues."

Ginepri, meanwhile, was headed toward his fourth first-round defeat in four appearances at Roland Garros. He was three games from losing to Albert Montanes of Spain -- 3-6, 7-6 (2), 6-1, 3-0 -- when play was suspended. (Ginepri lost the match in four sets when play resumed Tuesday.)

Meanwhile, Justin Gimelstob, Paul Goldstein and Vince Spadea all fell in first-round matches. Kevin Kim was a game from leveling his four-set match with Julio Silva of Brazil when darkness and rain intervened.

No. 5-seeded Andy Roddick, nursing a tender ankle, was the only other American not to play. He'll open on Tuesday against Spain's Alberto Martin.

Blake is not a classic clay-court player; his career record on the dirt is only 21-25. He is built for speed and power, but on Monday he showed flashes of patience. Blake lost his opening match in three of four previous clay tournaments but reached the third round in Hamburg, defeating former French Open champion Carlos Moya in the process.

Ginepri had lost five of seven matches this year on clay. He has failed to win back-to-back matches, and in the first Grand Slam of the year he lost to qualifier Denis Gremelmayr in the second set -- after leading two sets to none.

Blake was asked about Ginepri's recent hardships.

"It's another testament to how good the guys are and also how dangerous that ledge is," Blake said. "It's so close, you're playing so well, winning a lot of matches. I don't think people realize how many matches, when I won, I could have lost.

"I'm sure Robby's had five or six matches like that through his run. If a couple of them start going against you, you lose confidence. Guys feel like they can beat you. Guys are playing like that right now against Robby," he said.

Blake may have emerged a first-round winner, but reaching the third round will prove difficult. His draw was exceedingly cruel; he'll face the unseeded but dangerous Nicolas Almagro, the ubiquitous clay-court specialist.

Almagro won his first-round match 7-5, 6-2, 6-2 against Wayne Arthurs.

"I'm really excited to play because it's kind of a test to see how I do against the best clay-courters," Blake said. "It will be a great way to find out how good I am."

Greg Garber is a senior writer for ESPN.com.