PARIS – Saturday did not get off to a particularly auspicious start for Americans in Paris.
Playing simultaneously across the Roland Garros grounds in the morning, Andy Roddick lost in straight sets, the top-seeded Bryan twins did the same in doubles, and Serena Williams felt so dizzy and weak while dropping five consecutive games that she sought a doctor's attention before eventually turning things around to win.
And then, as daylight gave way to dusk amid an intermittent drizzle, Robby Ginepri of Kennesaw, Ga., pulled off quite a victory, upsetting 2003 French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero of Spain 7-5, 6-3, 3-6, 2-6, 6-4 to give the United States one man in the fourth round.
"Obviously you want as many Americans in the tournament as you can," Ginepri said. "But if I'm the last man standing, you know, so be it."
His run at the clay-court Grand Slam tournament is really rather unlikely, and not just because he had to beat two seeded players along the way.
Consider: Ginepri doesn't have a coach, is ranked 98th, and hadn't won a main-draw match on clay this year before arriving at the French Open. Indeed, before his 3-0 streak over the past week, Ginepri boasted a record of 1-7 – yes, 1-7! – in all tour-level matches this season.
There's more, too, including the blister on his right foot that Ginepri had a trainer treat during Saturday's match. A minor inconvenience compared to the medical procedure he had done 1½ months ago to address a neck injury that prevented him from tilting his head all the way.
Best to leave it to Ginepri to describe that: "I'm not 100 percent sure the name of it, but they go in and burn a couple nerves in the neck to prevent the brain from feeling the pain. But there's no real harm to it, no downside at all, so I went with it."
Then, in early May, the guy lost on clay to someone ranked 160th in a Challenger event – tennis' minor leagues – and to someone ranked 136th while trying to qualify for another small tourney, although he chalked up some of those troubles to food poisoning. To cap off his decidedly unique preparation for the year's second major championship, Ginepri came to France via bus from an event in Duesseldorf, Germany, a 4½-hour ride that got him to town at about 1 a.m. the day the French Open began.
"It's not usually the way you want to come into a Grand Slam," he said. "The trip couldn't have started worse, so there's only an upside to it. I guess this is it."
Although he lost in the first round in six of his previous seven appearances at the French Open, Ginepri is not a complete stranger to the latter stages of big tournaments. He also reached the fourth round in Paris in 2008, and he made it all the way to the semifinals of the 2005 U.S. Open.
And even though Ferrero is not as good – or as young – as seven years ago, when he won his major title and briefly made it to No. 1 in the rankings, the Spaniard still is strong on clay. He entered Saturday 20-4 with two titles on the slow surface in 2010, and was seeded 16th.
"I'm quite surprised that he lost," is the way his countryman Rafael Nadal put it after moving into the fourth round by beating two-time major title winner Lleyton Hewitt, 6-3, 6-4, 6-3.
Also winning Saturday were No. 3-seeded Novak Djokovic, Ginepri's next opponent; No. 7 Fernando Verdasco, No. 11 Mikhail Youzhny, and No. 19 Nicolas Almagro.
No. 6 Roddick, though, lost 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 to 114th-ranked qualifier Teimuraz Gabashvili of Russia, and acknowledged: "I got outplayed from the first ball."
Roddick's exit came at roughly the same time as that of his frequent U.S. Davis Cup teammates Bob and Mike Bryan, who were seeking their record-breaking 62nd career doubles title but lost in straight sets in the second round to unseeded Brazilians Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares.
"Maybe we're a little tired mentally," Bob Bryan said.
In singles, No. 9 David Ferrer went out 6-4, 6-0, 7-6 (1) against No. 22 Jurgen Melzer, and No. 14 Ivan Ljubicic was beaten 7-6 (4), 6-2, 6-4 by No. 24 Thomaz Bellucci, who now plays four-time champion Nadal.
The matchup expected to highlight the day's play – Maria Sharapova vs. Justine Henin, a pair of former No. 1s with 10 Grand Slam titles between them – wound up getting suspended because of darkness while tied at a set apiece.
There were no significant surprises in the women's matches that were completed, with the No. 1-seeded Williams, No. 4 Jelena Jankovic and No. 7 Sam Stosur reaching the fourth round. The last two Frenchwomen in the draw were eliminated by other seeded players: No. 13 Marion Bartoli lost to No. 18 Shahar Peer of Israel 7-6 (7), 6-2, and No. 15 Aravane Rezai lost to No. 19 Nadia Petrova of Russia 6-7 (2), 6-4, 10-8 in the completion of a match halted at 7-all on Friday night.
The one, real stop-the-presses moment came in the opening match in the main stadium, when Williams felt ill and went from dominant to ordinary, falling behind 5-0 in the second set against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, a Russian teen seeded 29th.
"I felt really dizzy out there," Williams said. "Just ran out of a little energy out there. Just fighting a cold and fighting sickness."
Her movement was sluggish and she took her time between points. During a changeover, a doctor and trainer came out, took Williams' temperature and gave her some pills.
"I don't know what they were, to be honest," Williams said. "I just took them. He said they can help me feel better."
Her play began to improve in the third set, and Williams closed out the 6-1, 1-6, 6-2 win.
Asked whether pulling out a victory in such circumstances is more about skill or fight, Williams responded: "A lot of it is definitely skill. A lot of it is fight. I'm blessed to have skill."