Correction to This Article
A photo caption incorrectly identified tennis player Tommy Haas as Benjamin Becker.

Three Long Tiebreaks Later, Becker Prevails

Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 5, 2009

It was a match decided by centimeters, from the first set to the last.

But that hardly made the defeat easier to bear for American Robby Ginepri, who for more than two hours on Tuesday fended off a barrage of aces from Germany's Benjamin Becker at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic only to crumple in the third and final tiebreak.

Becker, no relation to his country's elder tennis statesman Boris, fittingly closed the match with his 27th ace and advanced, courtesy of the 7-6 (7-3), 6-7 (1-7), 7-6 (7-4) victory, to a second-round meeting with the tournament's top seed, Andy Roddick, on Wednesday night.

Ginepri, by his own admission, was left with more bitterness than pride after taking a 4-1 lead in the third-set tiebreak and then losing six successive points -- four on routine backhand errors -- to give away the match. "I think it was 100 percent mental," said Ginepri, 26. "It's pretty uncommon for me to go through [an error-filled] stretch like that, especially when a match gets down to the wire. I didn't really try to win the match."

Virginia graduate Somdev Devvarman continued his improbable march through the draw by scoring the most significant victory of his young career in toppling 15th-ranked Marin Cilic of Croatia, 7-5, 6-4.

The match was marked by more tenacity than brilliance, but style points hardly mattered to Devvarman, a native of India, in winning his fourth match in four days, including a slog through qualifying to earn a spot in the tournament's main draw.

His reward for his first victory over a top-20 player is a day off and a potential third-round meeting with Cilic's countryman, Ivo Karlovic. "At this point, I'm just happy I got through," said Devvarman, who won back-to-back NCAA singles titles at Virginia. "I'm going to use my day off well."

Also advancing was former world No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero of Spain, who subdued Ecuador's Nicolas Lapentti, 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 6-0, in a well-played match that packed spectators into the grandstand.

Juan Martín Del Potro, the tournament's defending champion, overcame a sluggish start to turn back a strong challenge by Yen-Hsun Lu of Taiwan, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, in a match that ended at 12:40 a.m. Germany's Tommy Haas, a Wimbledon semifinalist, overcame nine double faults and a racket-breaking outburst in the third set to defeat Frank Dancevic, 6-1, 4-6, 6-4.

But Ginepri's struggles to make it past the first round held the most poignancy.

The Georgia resident was ranked as high as 15th in the world in 2005. But the grind of professional tennis was relegated to an afterthought after he was rushed to the hospital with a burst appendix in February. For nine days he was confined to bed with nothing to do but reflect.

During the painstaking recovery that followed, Ginepri lost nearly 30 pounds, considerable muscle mass and tumbled from the top 100. When he finally felt ready to play tennis again, he hit in five- and 10-minute increments every other day. His conditioning was so shot, that was enough of a workout.

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