Ginepri is last American in French Open

Food poisoning in Bordeaux and a van ride from Dusseldorf with John Isner and Sam Querrey (a little cramped, maybe?) would not be the best preparation for reaching the fourth round of the French Open. Surgery in Atlanta earlier in the year to cure a neck problem by having nerve ends burned off wouldn't help, either.

But Robby Ginepri has always done things a little differently, and he defied the odds on another damp day in Paris by emerging as the last American standing in the men's singles with a hard-fought and highly commendable 7-5, 6-3, 3-6, 2-6, 6-4 victory over Juan Carlos Ferrero, a former world No. 1 and the champion here in 2003.

With the Bryan brothers also losing, Ginepri saved the day for American men's tennis because Andy Roddick was dumped in emphatic style by Russian qualifier Teimuraz Gabashvili 6-4, 6-4, 6-2.

Ginepri went out there with the intention of running Ferrero, three years his elder at 30, into the ground with great effect for two sets.

"I was prepared to endure the pain and stay out there all day to do what I needed to win the match," Ginepri said. "We had rallies of 20, 30 strokes early on, but he still came back at me and got an early break in the fifth."

There might have been a time when Ginepri would have buckled at that point. But instead he broke back to love. He has been taking good advice on board in recent months, first from Jose Hugueras, one of the world's greatest clay court coaches with whom he worked in Palm Springs, and now his new Argentine coach Diego Moyano.

"I spoke with Jose before I played Sam (Querrey) and then, of course, with Diego, who is brilliant about the clay court game," Ginepri said. "It helped. You learn things and then try to apply them. It wasn't great conditions out there today. It rained a bit and got heavy but I fought hard throughout the whole match, so I am just happy to be in the fourth round."

Ginepri acknowledged being even happier to be healthy.

"The problem flared up for the second time in London during Queens last year and I just had to lie on a couch for two or three days," he recalled. "I couldn't serve and that's a pretty important part of the men's game these days. Now it's fine. The surgeon did a great job."

Ginepri's best showing in a Grand Slam was his shock appearance in the semifinal of the US Open in 2005, when it took Andre Agassi to stop him. But he has a liking for Roland Garros.

"You see, we share the initials RG," he laughed.

He had no idea who his next opponent was until a reporter told him it was Novak Djokovic. The Serb had come through early in the day against the tall Romanian Victor Hanescu, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2.

"Really?" Ginepri replied. "That's OK. I'll just lace up my shoes and see what happens."

Cool. Djokovic, who has not been at his best, also may be in for a surprise.

Unhappily, Roddick got a nasty surprise against Gabashvili, one of those Russians who went to live in Spain and a player with the reputation of being a bit of a wild man.

"I was born in Georgia so I have south blood mixed with north," Gabashvili explained. "They say it's very aggressive blood. Sometimes I go out of my mind, start screaming, you know, up and down. That is my biggest problem, you know."

Roddick's problem was that none of this madness showed up in Gabashvili's temperament as the Russian went for big shots and came up with almost 60 winners.

"Normally the tricky thing for him is to have time to take those big swings at the ball," Roddick said. "Today he definitely had plenty of time to take swings at the ball so it was tough for me to penetrate him. He was similar to Robin Soderling last year. So credit to him. He played good tennis and got the best of me in about 70 percent of the points as far as the way they were constructed. He kept it from being a match that hinged on a couple of points."

Rafael Nadal defeated the ever game Lleyton Hewitt 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 in a match that contained some amazing rallies, and Nadal surpassed himself when he dug out a low, winning forehand down the line as he dived and rolled over on the soggy clay. Fernando Verdasco also won, but Ferrero was not Spain's only casualty. In a big upset, the Austrian left-hander Jurgen Melzer defeated David Ferrer, one of the most consistent performers on clay in recent weeks and seeded ninth here, by the amazing score of 6-4, 6-0, 7-6.

Melzer played well but Ferrer kept missing shots that one has never seen him miss on clay. He even lost the tie break 7-1. As Ginepri has just proved, on this surface, you just never know.