Ginepri can't wait to get started on 2007

Following a season that was filled with disappointment, American Robby Ginepri is eager for 2007 to start, writes Bonnie DeSimone.

Updated: December 28, 2006, 8:46 AM ET
By Bonnie DeSimone | Special to ESPN.com

Most tennis players yearn for a longer offseason. Late November and December evaporate quickly as players make the rounds of charity exhibitions and get buried in the same holiday crush as non-jocks. Next thing they know, the carousel starts moving again and it's time to leave for Australia.

Yet Robby Ginepri has been looking forward to that long flight.

"That's what I said to my new coach, Diego [Ayala]," Ginepri said earlier this month before playing his pal Mardy Fish at Pam Shriver's charity benefit in Baltimore.

Robby Ginepri
Clive Brunskill/Getty ImagesAfter finishing No. 17 in the world in 2005, Robby Ginepri was 24-26 and dropped out of the top 50 in 2006.
"I told him I didn't even feel like taking three, four weeks off or whatever we usually do. He said, 'Yeah, sign of maturity.' I guess I'm getting a little older and smarter, which is always positive.

"I'm never too excited to start playing again. But now I'm moving on, moving forward and I'm really excited for next year. … I just want to take each week at a time and be ready and fresh."

At this time last year, Ginepri's career seemed as if it were set on fast forward. His strong second half in 2005, highlighted by a semifinal appearance at the U.S. Open (where he lost to a not-to-be-denied Andre Agassi), vaulted him to a career-high No. 15 in the ATP rankings.

Ginepri got back on the merry-go-round in January, only to see it slip into reverse. By midyear, he'd been ousted in the first round of nine tournaments, including the French Open and Wimbledon.

"My mental side was just horrible, pathetic, in the beginning part of the year," he said. "That's something that happened a couple years ago too, so I need to take a look at that and see what I can do to resolve it."

Just as he did in 2005, Ginepri began to right himself when the U.S. hardcourt season began. He reached the semifinals in Indianapolis -- where he came in as defending champion -- before falling to Andy Roddick.

Two weeks later, Ayala's phone rang. It was Ginepri, calling from Toronto after another first-round loss. He had decided to part ways with Francisco Montana, the U.S. Tennis Association coach who had worked with him for more than a year and helped him crack the top 20. Ginepri asked Ayala to meet him at the next ATP Tour stop in Cincinnati.

Ayala, 27, born in Argentina and raised in south Florida, is only three years older than Ginepri and considers him a friend. The two were briefly doubles partners and went to the finals at Indianapolis in 2003, the first tournament they played. But Ayala had no qualms about booking a flight and starting a different kind of relationship as a coach.

"I had talked to him a couple of weeks before that when he played in the semis in Indy," Ayala said. "He sounded more relieved than anything, but I knew he wasn't comfortable with his surroundings, that he wasn't happy. … I knew I could help him. Inside, I always thought it would work well, for some reason. There was never a doubt in my mind."

"[D]ays and weeks went by where I wasn't having fun. I was miserable. But my mind-set's where it should be [now]."
-- Robby Ginepri on last season

Ginepri, who still trains with his boyhood coach Jerry Baskin when he's home in Kennesaw, Ga., is a self-admitted homebody whose profession requires him to travel almost constantly. He said he wasn't always good at handling the demanding schedule or the heightened expectations that come with being a highly ranked player.

"I don't ever want to forget a year I was a professional athlete … but days and weeks went by where I wasn't having fun," he said. "I was miserable. But my mind-set's where it should be [now]."

Ginepri felt his effort and concentration improved vastly in the closing weeks of the season even if his results weren't spectacular. He lost a tough five-setter to Tommy Haas in the third round of the U.S. Open, and two more of his late-season losses came to Ivan Ljubicic and Roger Federer. He finished the year ranked No. 51.

He has also renewed his relationship with trainer Jamie Gabel, and said having him and Ayala in his corner is like having a home on the road.

"If I'm in a good mood, I'm going to be playing well," Ginepri said. "That works with anyone, but especially with me. I have to be extremely happy and things have to be going the way I want. It's a little bit selfish, but that's what it takes to be a champion."

Ayala said Ginepri isn't in need of any magic, just discipline.

"I think you'll see a different Robby next year," Ayala said. "He's been so up and down and now he's more focused, ready to be a pro. I bring my passion for the game, and I think it's rubbed off on him. He wants to put in the work."

Hawk-Eye can see clearly now
Men and women might view the world very differently, but on the tennis court, their ability to second-guess a line call appears to be fairly similar.

2006 Hawk-Eye statistics
ATP WTA
Tournaments used on stadium court(s) 13 9
Total matches used 386 238
Total challenges 1,229 658
Challenges per match 3.18 2.76
Calls overruled 475 247
Pct. of overrules 38.6 37.5
Year-end statistics compiled by the ATP and WTA on the challenge system using Hawk-Eye electronic line-calling technology show that players from both tours were right slightly more than a third of the time overall. The system formally made its debut at the Nasdaq-100 tournament in Miami last March.

The men had Hawk-Eye at more events -- 13, to nine for the women -- and made more challenges per match. Players from both tours also generally used the system more as the season progressed.

Players' success at getting calls overruled varied widely by tournament. The men's success rate peaked in Los Angeles in July, where 50 percent of the challenges resulted in overrules, and dipped to 27 percent in Moscow in October. The women's success rate varied from a low of 21 percent of calls overruled at Stanford in July to a whopping 51 percent at the year-end championships in Madrid last month.

The men logged 161 challenges at the final Masters Series tournament in Paris -- the highest total of any event this season -- and were right 38 percent of the time.

Bonnie DeSimone is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com.