PARIS -- The Last American Man fell Monday. It was early in the third set on Court Phillippe Chatrier and
But it was sad, too, because it was also the end. The most stunning fourth-round matchup of the 2010 French Open had been all even before that, the 98th-ranked Ginepri having rolled Djokovic to win his first-ever set off the No. 3 seed. But now it was 0-1, 15-30 and the ploy backfired; Ginepri's serve got broken, he won just more three games, lost 6-4, 2-6, 6-1, 6-2. "Probably never do push-ups again on court," he said.
Any other day, of course, it wouldn't matter much. But events had conspired; every other U.S. male had already crashed out: A suddenly passive
"I'll do what I can," he said beforehand, "to represent the U.S. as well as I can."
It was a tall task. In tennis terms, no U.S. man has won at Roland Garros since
But here, now, was Ginepri. Soft-spoken and a weathered 27, the Kennesaw, Ga., native has a certain cowboy reserve, and enough mileage on him these days to embody rugged individualism. A neck injury had limited his range of motion the last two years, laid him out immobile on a couch in London for three days last summer, ravaged his serve. Ginepri finally underwent a procedure earlier this spring to, as he put it, "burn the nerves" and, with just one tour-level win all year, rode into town with no coach or trainer to hold his hand. "It's nice being out on the court," he said, "and not have someone always telling you what they think you should do."
"He's got to be willing to go out there and make it a physical match," Higueras said before Monday's match. "We all know Novak can blink where there's a battle, so Robby's got to look for his openings and before that he's going to have to do some work, be willing to suffer. That's the nature of clay."
That very nature, though, is what has brought so many American tennis dreams to grief. The surface demands patience and brains, touch as well as brawny ballstriking; it's no mistake that Roddick's sledgehammer game has always left European sensibilities cold.
For a time, Ginepri embraced that nature Monday, working points, working Djokovic around in the second set until he was literally gasping. But any French philosopher would nod at the final result: Ginepri tried to get macho -- got American -- in the third set. Ginepri did a few push-ups, got mesmerized by his own firepower, and soon found Djokovic picking him apart.
With Ginepri down 1-5 in the third set, no one at Chatrier had any doubt of the result. "Robby, come back!" a man yelled, but it sounded like the little boy's vain plea in