Robby Ginepri's first job was teaching tennis and four years into his professional career he's proving to be a pretty good student of the game as well.
Slumping to a 9-14 record after his opening-round Wimbledon exit in June, Ginepri returned to Florida to begin training for the North American hard-court season. Working harder than he ever has, the Marietta, Georgia native fine-tuned his chiseled physique and sharpened his shot selection on court under the guidance of coach Francisco Montana.
Once prone to hitting low-percentage shots down the line when pushed out of position, Ginepri gradually transitioned from playing a shot-making style to a more grinding game. Playing to his strengths — physical fitness, quick court coverage, consistent topspin strokes and the ability to effectively exploit the pace of opponent's shots — Ginepri fought off three match points to defeat defending champion and good friend Andy Roddick 4-6, 7-6(2), 7-5 at last month's RCA Championships quarterfinals in Indianapolis.
It was Ginepri’s first victory over Roddick in seven career meetings. Ginepri, who lost to Roddick in the 2000 U.S. Open junior final, had won just one set in their prior six meetings.
Days after defeating the third-ranked Roddick, Ginepri beat the heat and fellow American Taylor Dent in the process, winning nine straight games to take the Indianapolis title. It was Ginepri's second career championship.
The 45th-ranked Ginepri enters the U.S. Open playing perhaps the best tennis of his career. He has won 14 of his last 17 matches, including triumphs over three top 10 players in that span — 2003 U.S. Open champion Roddick, 2000 U.S. Open champion and reigning Australian Open champion Marat Safin and French Open finalist Mariano Puerta.
It has been a complete career reversal for Ginepri who lost 15 straight games in suffering an 0-6, 0-6, 3-6 loss to Novak Djokovic in the opening round of Roland Garros in May. Last week, Ginepri pushed world No. 1 Roger Federer to three sets before falling, 6-4, 5-7, 4-6 in the Cincinnati semifinals.
The 22-year-old Ginepri, who has exited in the opening round of all three majors this year, will try to end that trend when he takes on Spain's Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in the opening round of next week's U.S. Open. Should Ginepri advance, he could face the fourth-seeded Roddick in the second round.
Tennis Week.com contributing writer Scoop Malinowski sat down with Ginepri for this Biofile interview:
Height: 5-foot-11 Weight: 174 pounds.
Born on: October 7th, 1982 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Childhood Heroes: Growing up, I liked watching Michael Chang play, because he was kind of short like me. And he ran around and scrapped a lot and that's how I played as a junior. And Jim Courier as well.
Nicknames: Neps and G-Man.
Hobbies/Interests: I like hangin' out with friends, listening to music, just pretty much relaxing. I love to sleep [smiles].
Favorite Movies: There's so many good movies out there, it's tough to come up with one...Hoosiers, Blow.
Favorite TV Shows: I like watching MTV Cribs.
Musical Tastes: I like hip-hop, Eminem, 50 Cent before the match.
First Job: I taught tennis lessons at my local neighborhood club - Meadow Grove (age 11).
First Car: Was a 1989 Pontiac Grand Am, gray.
Early Tennis Memory: The first feeling that I hit top spin. I was really excited when I learned how to hit top spin (age 8). (Who taught you?) My dad (Rene).
Pre-Match Feeling: Motivated. Really hyper to go out there and do it up.
Favorite Meal: Chicken spectacular — my mom (Nancy) makes it. But I love going out to Benihana's Japanese steakhouse.
Favorite Breakfast Cereal: Frosted Mini Wheats.
Favorite Ice Cream Flavor: Strawberry.
Greatest Tennis Career Moment: Probably winning Newport (2003).
Most Painful Career Moment: Probably losing to Jiri Novak in New Zealand a few years ago. I was up 6-1, 4-1 serving. Had a match point serving in the second set. And lost 6-3 in the third.
Closest Tennis Friends: Robert Kendrick, James (Blake), Mardy (Fish).
Funniest Moment On Court: Doing a couple of skits on the court during practice with Mardy Fish a couple of years ago in Cincinnati. We played baseline games and whoever lost had to do funny things out on the court...sing, '...I'm a little tea pot, short and stout...' And there's a ton of people there. And middle of the court...and you had to do the motions. The other one was, he had to bark like a dog and crawl around the court [smiles].
Toughest Competitors Encountered: Federer, Agassi, Hewitt...guys that keep a lot of balls in play.
Favorite Vacation Spot: Hawaii and Tahiti.
Funniest Players: Mardy, Alex Bogomolov Jr., Kendrick.
Favorite Athletes To Watch: I liked Jordan. Michael Vick. I like Sergio Garcia. Andre Agassi. Mike Tyson.
People Qualities Most Admired: Honesty and loyalty.
Scoop Malinowski created the Biofile interview in 1992. Scoop is a Tennisweek.com contributor, noted boxing expert and an accomplished recreational tennis player who is currently writing a first-person piece on his experience qualifying for a USTA National tournament. Please check out his site www.thebiofile.com.