Heat takes toll on Dent; Ginepri finishes surprising run at RCAs

July 24, 2005 08:00 PM
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Unseeded Robby Ginepri survived the sweltering heat while Taylor Dent wilted away.

Ginepri came from a set down to beat one of the top seeds at the RCA Championships for the third straight day, winning the second ATP title of his career when Dent retired from heat illness in the third set Sunday.

Ginepri lost the first set 4-6, but took the second 6-0 and led 3-0 in the third when Dent bowed out.

"It's a little sad, winning a tournament like this,'' Ginepri said. "But at the same time, it's a great feeling.''

Dent broke Ginepri to take a 5-4 lead and served out to win the first set. But with temperatures climbing into the 90s, the heat index hitting 106 degrees and the courtside thermometer hovering near 120, umbrellas, fans and sports drinks offered no respite for either player.

The hard-serving style that helped Dent sweep his way into the finals without dropping a set melted, and the few balls he managed to chase down frequently lacked precision or pace.

The effect was most noticeable when Dent served. His first serve of the day was clocked at 142 mph, his best of the weeklong tournament, but that number dropped dramatically by the second set when he sometimes struggled to hit 100.

Twice, Dent sat for several minutes with ice-filled towels draped around his neck and stomach and used ammonia smelling salts to recover. Nothing worked, and after losing nine straight games _ all six in the second set and the first three of the third _ Dent could not go on. Dent said he expected to use an ice bath and perhaps intravenous fluids to cool down.

"I was doing everything I could to get better, and it never came,'' he said. ``I felt lucky to get that break, and I felt like I was holding onto my serve with smoke and mirrors.''

Although the ATP's first all-American final in nearly 18 months ended prematurely, Ginepri still managed to resuscitate his once-promising career.

He joined Pete Sampras, Andy Roddick, Jim Courier and John McEnroe as the only Americans to win in Indianapolis since the tournament moved to hard courts in 1988. Ginepri also became the first unseeded player to win the tournament in the hard-court era, and it was his first tournament win since Newport, R.I., in 2003. The payoff was $74,250.

For the 22-year-old who was ranked 35th in the world at the end of 2003 and once played on the United States' Davis Cup team, it could also end his slide through the rankings. Ginepri entered this week ranked 98th after slipping as low as 103rd.

The difference this week, he said, was conditioning.

Ginepri prepared for the tournament in Miami, expecting warm weather, and wound up beating five of the top 10 seeds including three straight _ Roddick, the No. 1 seed and two-time defending champ Karol Beck, the 10th seed, and Dent _ all in three sets. He also defeated No. 8 Vincent Spadea and No. 9 Paradorn Srichapan.

"He came ready to play, and he won,'' Dent said of Ginepri.

Again, though, Ginepri started slow.

He faced four deuces and two break points in the match's opening game and failed to convert on two break chances when Dent served game two.

By then, though, Ginepri already sensed Dent was in trouble.

"The first two games were really grinding games, and I thought that was good for me,'' he said. "I could see him running out of energy pretty quickly.''

His only miscue came when an errant backhand shot gave Dent the break he needed to take the first set.

Ginepri countered by breaking back early in the second set when Dent netted a short volley.

Things got worse quickly for Dent, who managed just one point in the next three games, quickly finding himself in a 5-0 hole.

During the last two breaks, Dent asked for medical help.

He scored just one more point in the last three games, then called it quits.

``Maybe I'll celebrate by busting open a bottle of champagne,'' Ginepri said. ``Physically, I thought this was one of the easier matches here, and the points didn't last as long. He was fatigued pretty early.''

In doubles, second-seeded Paul Hanley and Graydon Oliver also won a shortened match, winning 6-2, 3-1 over top-seeded Simon Aspelin and Todd Perry. Perry retired because of a pulled stomach muscle.