Robby Ginepri Caps a Strong Week for U.S. Tennis
There is a buzz on the grounds as it is time to get down to crowning a champion. Recorded music from Indiana’s own John (Cougar) Mellencamp was piped through the stadium prior to the start of the championship match. The crowd looks reasonably large, and my read is that the All-American final has these fans pretty excited. Brad Gilbert is sitting court side for ESPN2 roughly 20 feet from where I am sitting. Cliff Drysdale and Darren Cahill are calling the match. As an aside, watching tennis matches court side is something every tennis fan should do. Sitting this close gives a great feel for the spin, pace and placement of the ball during most rallies. This experience is possible for any fan on side courts early in tournaments.
A Quick First Set
The match starts with Sam Querrey belting a 126 mph serve on the first point leading to an easy hold. Robby Ginepri opened his first service game with a 117 mph serve and each player seems to have come out firing. At 1-1 Sam Querrey falls behind 0-40 after Ginepri dug out a 130 mph serve and hit a backhand passing shot winner. Querrey double faulted away the first service break of the match. After each player held routinely to reach 3-2 Ginepri, Robby fell behind 30-40 but hit a forehand winner to force deuce. Robby worked his way to the net to take the advantage and hit an ace out wide to hold for a 4-2 lead. Querrey lost a 40-0 lead and double faulted at deuce to face what was a de facto set point. Ginepri hit a great backhand pass to claim a 5-2 lead. Robby served out the set 6-2.
First Set Interlude: Nerves, Legs, Lungs
Entering the second set I jotted three words in my notebook “nerves, lungs, legs.” I thought that all three of these factors had to improve for Querrey to rebound and win the title. Querrey’s 32% first serve percentage and 6 double faults in the 1st set did not bode well. The crowd also seemed solidly behind the 2005 champion Robby Ginepri despite the crazy “Samurai” fans and friends of Sam Querrey who flew to the event. The Indianapolis fans are loyal to previous winners as Ginepri enjoyed a solid fan support edge versus John Isner in the semifinal round as well.
Second Set – Double Troubles
Each player held serve fairly routinely through the first 8 games of the second set. At 6-2, 4-4 new balls were put into play as Querrey stepped up to serve. Querrey blasted two 125 mph service winners to jump ahead 30-0. He then hit a 110 mph serve out wide to claim a 40-0 lead. A double fault and two unforced errors later found Querrey at deuce and 6 points from defeat. Querrey fought off 1 break point and held a game point for 5-4. Ginepri hit a backhand winner to force a 3rd deuce and took advantage of a 2nd serve to produce a 2nd break point. Querrey once again double faulted and Ginepri was 1 game from his second Indianapolis title. In the semifinal, Ginepri tightened up when serving for the match, but he hit a service winner, an ace and a service winner to claim 3 championship points. Ginepri employed a drop shot to win the final point of the match and defeat Sam Querrey in 1 hour and 3 minutes.
No Early Impressions
The first time I saw Robby Ginepri play in person was against Lleyton Hewitt in the first round of the 2002 Masters Series Cincinnati. Hewitt was fresh off of a Wimbledon title and was #1 in the world. Hewitt also won the match 6-0, 6-0 and my impression as a fan was that Hewitt had just drilled some poor kid. There was not a lot to say about Ginepri after that match. In 2005 Robby used a win at Indianapolis to propel himself to a great Summer and Fall. Semifinal finishes at Cincinnati, the U.S. Open and Madrid cemented Robby’s status as a top 20 player. A slow hard court and a lot of heat seemed to bode well for Ginepri entering the 2006 Australian Open. Robby lost a 2 set to love lead in the 2nd round and his momentum was seemingly gone. Solid efforts in 2008 aside, Ginepri has yet to show the type of form he demonstrated over the final 5 months of 2005.
I picked Robby Ginepri to win a close match after watching the semifinals due to his consistency, fitness and ability to take the ball early. This ability allows him to blunt some of a massive server’s advantage and force points to be played out rather than end in a thud. Ginepri is fit, has a very solid backhand and is serving well. I can’t say that I expected to see such solid tennis from a player who failed to win a game the first time I saw him in action. Ginepri came across as a nice guy in the post match interviews and also seemed to be ecstatic about winning this event. Robby is at an age and has been through enough ups and downs in his career that he knows that days such as today are not guaranteed. That added sense of perspective makes his result at the 2009 Indianapolis Tennis Championships memorable to me.
Odds and Ends
Cliff Drysdale can project his voice forcefully at times. Generally he is inaudible, but occasionally it was easy to hear his statements. I wonder if the player on the side of the court near the broadcast booth could hear him between points as the booth is not enclosed.
The USTA provided notebooks for the media and the paper within is made of 100% recycled paper so my greening column may be timely.
I will give a more theoretical look at the 4 semifinalists and our doubles champions in my 3rd installment to come out sometime early this week. I will also say more about the post match press conferences.
The Indianapolis community came together nicely to put on a fine event. The ball kids, tournament volunteers and vendors were all quite hospitable and enthusiastic in their work. The work that these people put into the event is largely unseen, but without it there would have been no tournament.
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