Ginepri regaining some of his '05 form

8/31/2007 - Tennis

NEW YORK -- Towering John Isner, whose big serves leave 'em cowering, has whistled into the third round here at the U.S. Open. So have 18-year-old, suddenly proficient Donald Young and former champion Andy Roddick. James Blake joined his fellow Americans with some early Friday morning histrionics.

Lost in those red-white-and-blue story lines was a usual suspect by the name of Robby Ginepri. While there are four American men still alive in the top half of the draw, he is only one left in the bottom half.

The 24-year-old from Kennesaw, Ga., raced into the third round on Friday with a technically sound 6-2, 6-3, 6-1 victory over Russia's Teimuraz Gabashvili. On a day featuring several marathon matches, Ginepri's clocked in at 75 minutes.

"Trying to get out of here early today," Ginepri said. "Definitely makes it a lot easier to compete later in tournaments. I haven't served this well in a long time. Forgot how easy it is to win points when you're serving so well."

By any measure, it's been a miserable season for Ginepri. His record coming into the U.S. Open was 8-16 -- on pace for his worst win total since 2002, when he was still outside the top 100. The same thing that has dogged him during his short career -- a short attention span when it comes to training -- was his undoing.

"I always use this term: I just wasn't motivated," Ginepri said. "I wasn't working hard on the court. I was a little sick at the beginning of the year, some issues."

But something happens to Ginepri when he gets to the National Tennis Center.

"I play extremely well here for some reason," he said. "I don't know, to be exact.

"I guess it's just the atmosphere here that really gets me going. I love competing here. I always hit the ball extremely well."

Ginepri is 10-15 in the three other Grand Slams, but at the U.S. Open he's a terrific 12-6.

In 2005, he reached the semifinals here, his best Grand Slam effort to date. Ginepri strung together consecutive five-set wins over Tommy Haas, Richard Gasquet and Guillermo Coria before losing to Andre Agassi, in five, of course.

That memory has sustained Ginepri through some of the lean times.

"I can at least always go back to those memories, pick out the good shots, pick out the matches that I competed so hard in, fought through those five-setters and got through," Ginepri said. "When I'm still training hard, trying to get to the top again, I can pull off those matches."

For a while, it looked as though Mardy Fish would join Ginepri. He fought hard and forced No. 8 seed Tommy Robredo to five sets. Fish actually led 4-1 and was two points from breaking Robredo for a 5-1 lead. It didn't happen, and Robredo was even at 4-all when Fish double-faulted on game point.

Robredo won 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, 6-7 (7), 6-4.

"Credit to him," Fish said. "He stepped up his game. I froze. Against top-10 players, top-eight players in the world, you just can't freeze like that.

"Just coming off the court [at 4-1] and thinking about it a little bit. I mean, the best thing I can give you is that I got tight."

In the lean half of the men's draw, things are lining up nicely for Ginepri. He next faces Stanislas Wawrinka, who surprised Marat Safin in straight sets. The winner of Juan Ignacio Chela-Ivan Ljubicic awaits in the round of 16.

"I'm back in rare form," Ginepri said. "I'm looking forward to keep going here."

Greg Garber is a senior writer for ESPN.com.