- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 8, 2005

NEW YORK — Robby Ginepri, an unsung, unseeded American toiling hard through the U.S. Open, gutted his way out of trouble and got the gift of Guillermo Coria’s 13th and 14th double-faults on the last two points to reach a Grand Slam semifinal for the first time.

Ginepri, a 22-year-old who had never advanced beyond the third round of the Open, won his third straight five-setter against a seeded player 4-6, 6-1, 7-5, 3-6, 7-5 yesterday and guaranteed that an American will play in the final.

Ginepri’s semifinal opponent Saturday will be the winner of last night’s Andre Agassi-James Blake match, which ended too late for this edition.

“The last three matches took so much out of me, I’m just dead right now,” Ginepri told the crowd as his family, suffering and celebrating on alternate points, watched from the players’ box. His sister, Jenni, took photos as he spoke.

“I don’t know how I got through that match,” he added. “I don’t know what’s going on right now. I’m a little foggy, a little dizzy. It’s crazy. Crazy!”

Almost as crazy was top-ranked Lindsay Davenport, the 1998 champion, getting thumped in the first set by last year’s finalist, sixth-seeded Elena Dementieva, and losing a match of epic sloppiness, 6-1, 3-6, 7-6 (6).

“It seems like a lucky place for me,” said Dementieva, who overcame 12 double-faults and had 43 unforced errors to Davenport’s 56. “After last year I’m still dreaming about Saturday night every single day, so who knows.”

Davenport blamed herself for playing a sub-par match.

“I’m just annoyed,” she said. “You obviously want to play better than I played in a quarterfinal. Getting up in the third-set tiebreaker and then losing three points in a row, is just too up and down. I wish I could have been more consistent.”

Today, Dementieva will play No. 12 Mary Pierce, the 2000 French Open and 1995 Australian winner who advanced to her first U.S. Open semifinals by beating fellow Frenchwoman Amelie Mauresmo 6-4, 6-1.

“It’s amazing,” said Pierce, who reached the French Open final in June. “I’m 30, 17th year on the tour, and there’s still firsts for me. That’s pretty exciting.”

Ginepri’s victory over No. 8 Coria, the Argentine who was a French Open finalist last year, took just over three hours and ended with a dramatic series of six match points.

Coria overcame three match points after a double-fault to love-40 in the 10th game of the final set as the two players, each wearing a white cap backward, engaged in long rallies.

Ginepri has had only a few claims to fame so far — his second career title at Indianapolis in July, where he beat Andy Roddick in the quarters and Taylor Dent in the final; a semifinal finish in Cincinnati last month, where he gave No. 1 Roger Federer a tough, three-set match.

Oh, and then there was the time a couple years ago when Ginepri dated actress Minnie Driver.

“I hope I’m more notable for my tennis than being with her,” he said. “Just a little fling, and that’s over with. Now I think I’m making my name with tennis.”

Coria was involved in a tempest with Chilean Nicolas Massu in his previous match, but against Ginepri there was nothing but respect. On one point earlier in the fifth set, the players gave each other a high-five at the net when they combined for a particularly thrilling point — a beautifully angled drop shot by Coria, a full-court running scoop by Ginepri feathered barely over the net, and a putaway backhand half-volley winner by Coria.

Now trailing 4-5, Coria saved the second match point with a backhand and the third with a brazen overhead from the baseline that skipped off the top of the net cord. He held to 5-5 after one more long rally.

After serving his ninth ace at 124 mph to hold for a 6-5 lead in the fifth set, Ginepri jumped out to his fourth match point at 30-40 on Coria’s serve when the wearying Argentine slapped a forehand just wide. Nervous, Ginepri pulled the front of his yellow shirt up to chomp on it with his teeth, then tried to close the match. Instead, he saw Coria save the point with a forehand that Ginepri stretched to reach but netted.

Three points later, Coria mishit a backhand wide to give Ginepri a fifth match point. Coria saved that with a surprising serve and volley. That was all Coria had left. He double-faulted to set up the sixth match point and double-faulted again to lose.

Coria said he had been having problems with a nerve in his right hand and wasn’t able to grip the racket hard.

“I was losing feeling on the hand,” Coria said in Spanish while motioning with his right pinkie. “It has been happening for four days. I had a lot of treatment … but during the match, the more I serve, the more it gets tight — the forearm, the shoulder. I knew it could happen. That’s just the way it is.”

Coria, who missed last year’s Open because of a shoulder injury, said he was worn out by his five-set victory over Massu two days earlier — at 4 hours, 32 minutes the longest match of the tournament.

“It was a tough break that the match with Massu was so long,” Coria said. “My whole body was hurting. It was hard to keep up the same speed I had. But I gave it all — ran, tried hard and gave it all I could. He won because he deserved it. He’s been waiting for a moment like this for a long time.”

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