WASHINGTON -- It was a match decided by centimeters, from the first set to the last.
But that hardly made the defeat easier to bear for American Robby Ginepri, who for more than two hours Tuesday fended off a barrage of aces from Germany's Benjamin Becker at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic only to crumple in the third and final tiebreak.
Becker, no relation to his country's elder tennis statesman Boris, fittingly closed the match with his 27th ace and advanced, courtesy of the 7-6 (3), 6-7 (1), 7-6 (4) victory, to a second-round meeting with the tournament's top seed, Andy Roddick, tonight.
And Ginepri was left with more bitterness than pride after taking a 4-1 lead in the third-set tiebreak and then losing six successive points - four on routine backhand errors - to give away the match.
"I think it was 100 percent mental," Ginepri, 26, said.
Later Tuesday, Virginia graduate Somdev Devvarman continued his improbable march through the draw by scoring the most significant victory of his young career in toppling 15th-ranked Marin Cilic of Croatia, 7-5, 6-4.
The match was marked by more tenacity than brilliance, but style points hardly mattered to Devvarman, a native of India, in winning his fourth match in four days after slogging through qualifying to earn a spot in the tournament's main draw.
His reward for his first victory over a top-20 player is a day off and a potential third-round meeting with Cilic's countryman, Ivo Karlovic.
"At this point, I'm just happy I got through," said Devvarman, who won back-to-back NCAA singles titles at Virginia. "I'm going to use my day off well."
Also advancing was former world No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero of Spain, who subdued Ecuador's Nicolas Lapentti, 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 6-0, in a well-played match that packed spectators into the Grandstand Court.
But Ginepri's struggles to make it past the first round held the most poignancy.
The Georgia resident was ranked as high as 15th in the world in 2005. But the grind of professional tennis was relegated to an afterthought after he was rushed to the hospital with a burst appendix in February. For nine days he was confined to the bed.
During the painstaking recovery that followed, Ginepri lost nearly 30 pounds and considerable muscle mass and tumbled from the top 100. When he finally felt ready to play tennis again, he hit in five- and 10-minute increments every other day.
Yet in losing so much, he gained a measure of perspective.
"You definitely take things for granted," said Ginepri, who has since climbed to 69th in the world, having won the ATP event in Indianapolis last month. "I'm blessed just to be playing tennis at the level I am here."