Ginepri fights off retirement questions with breakthrough week

May 5, 2014 10:02 AM
Robby Ginepri claimed his biggest title in five years by winning the $50,000 USTA Pro Circuit event in Tallahassee, Fla.

By McCarton Ackerman,

Robby Ginepri was contemplating retiring from pro tennis at the beginning of last week, but it looks like he’ll be sticking around for a while longer.

The 2005 US Open semifinalist achieved a major milestone in his career comeback by winning the $50,000 USTA Pro Circuit event in Tallahassee, Fla. The victory also enabled to him to clinch the Har-Tru USTA Pro Circuit Wild Card Challenge and earn a wild card into the French Open next month. It will be Ginepri’s first visit to Paris in four years.

“Last year and the year before, I was contemplating retiring. If this week didn’t go well, I could have pulled the trigger on that,” he said. “This is a good reward and I’m definitely eager to work as hard as I can leading into the French and fight hard.”

Ginepri entered Tallahassee with a ranking of No. 442. Injuries have derailed his tennis career for the last four years and he had lost in the first round of his last two USTA Pro Circuit events. But Ginepri managed to find the form that carried him as high as No. 15 in the world, dropping just three games in his first two matches and cruising through the draw with impressive play from the baseline.

He won the Har-Tru USTA Pro Circuit Wild Card Challenge by collecting the greatest number of ATP ranking points at a series of USTA Pro Circuit clay-court challengers -- a $100,000 event in Sarasota, Fla., and two $50,000 events, in Savannah, Ga., and in Tallahassee. Ginepri needed to reach the final in Tallahassee in order to clinch a spot in the French Open.

However, his return to Paris could be far more than a nostalgia trip. In recent years, Ginepri’s best results in Grand Slam competition have come on red clay. He reached the fourth round in both 2008 and 2010, marking the only times he has reached the second week of a major since his semifinal run at the US Open. He also qualified last month for the ATP event in Houston and reached the quarterfinals there last year.

Ginepri didn’t always have a love affair with the red clay, though. He won just two of his first 20 ATP main draw matches on the dirt and lost in the first round of the French Open in his first five appearances. Powerful forehands aren’t always as effective on slower surfaces, but his then-coach Jose Higueras got Ginepri to change his game just enough to begin experiencing success on clay.

“You don’t change your game all the way on clay,” said Higueras to the New York Times in 2008. “He’s Ginepri. His name is not González or Ramírez. But you do have to adjust to the surface so the surface basically doesn’t hurt you, and that’s what he’s doing very well.”

With his win in Tallahassee, Ginepri jumped more than 160 spots to No. 280 in the rankings. And if he can bring the form to Roland Garros that he brought to Tallahassee, we could see him at the forefront of Team USA during the fortnight.