US Open 2012: Top American John Isner wins first-round match

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NEW YORK — His match tightening up, John Isner still had the tiebreaker.

The top-ranked American man at the U.S. Open needed nearly 3 hours to win a four-set match in the first round Wednesday. Isner, seeded ninth, outlasted Xavier Malisse of Belgium 6-3, 7-6 (5), 5-7, 7-6 (9).

He’s now 37-13 in tiebreakers this year.

This one ended in eerily similar fashion to his victory in the Winston-Salem final Saturday. At 9-9 in a tiebreaker in the last set then, Tomas Berdych had a chance for a winner, but his forehand hit the net cord and bounced out, giving Isner match point. On Wednesday, Malisse pushed an easy backhand volley into the net at 9-9 to hand Isner match point.

The 57th-ranked Malisse argued with fans and the chair umpire on multiple occasions during the match.

Victoria Azarenka looks quite comfortable so far on the hard courts at Flushing Meadows. She’s the world’s top-ranked player and the Australian Open champ, but Azarenka has never advanced past the fourth round at the U.S. Open.

No hint of her past struggles in her first two matches this year, though. Azarenka beat qualifier Kirsten Flipkens 6-2, 6-2 in 65 minutes in the second round.

“I don’t feel like I have to prove something,” Azarenka said.

She hasn’t made it beyond the third round as a top-10 seed in each of the last three years. In 2010, she collapsed on court after hitting her head before her second-round match. Last year, seeded fourth, she had the bad luck of drawing 28th-seeded Serena Williams in the third.

“The next match is going to be the usual match for me. I don’t have anything that, you know, it’s the third round or I have to win that I didn’t the last two years,” Azarenka said.

So far in 2012, she’s lost just five games through her first two matches. Next up is 28th-seeded Zheng Jie of China, who beat Magdalena Rybarikova 6-3, 6-1.

It was another quick, predictable result in a tournament with few upsets or even nail-biters yet.

David Ferrer opened his tournament with a result befitting a top-four seed. Ranked fifth, Ferrer moved up a spot because fellow Spaniard Rafael Nadal is out with knee problems. Ferrer beat 34th-ranked Kevin Anderson of South Africa 6-4, 6-2, 7-6 (3).

It was potentially a tough first-round matchup for Ferrer: Anderson made the third round at Flushing Meadows each of the last two years. But Ferrer was in control throughout, facing just three break points — all in the third set — and saving all of them.

“It was not easy match, no, with Anderson,” Ferrer said. “He’s a really good player. He’s very strong first and second serve. I’m happy.”

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