Isner needs two tiebreaks to advance; Ferrer, Azarenka win too
NEW YORK (AP) -- Xavier Malisse stomped over to his chair after losing the second set to John Isner and launched into a tirade at the chair umpire.
"How many bad calls can I get in one tiebreak?" he ranted, with some expletives mixed in.
While Malisse was directing his ire at referees and fans, Isner kept his cool to pull out a four-set victory in his first-round match at the U.S. Open. The top-ranked American man at the Open, Isner won 6-3, 7-6 (5), 5-7, 7-6 (9) in just under 3 hours Wednesday.
Isner is 19-3 with two titles since his first-round loss at Wimbledon.
"A lot of times I win matches on very close margins," he said. "Sometimes it can go against me. But I try not to feel that pressure of being a top-10 player. As cliche as it is, you have to take it one at a time. But I'm in a good place at this tournament right now. I've won a lot of matches since Wimbledon. I know in the nitty-gritty times of a match, I always have that confidence and all those wins in my back pocket."
Malisse was left to lament what might've been had his shot not been incorrectly called long when he led 5-3 in the second-set tiebreaker. After it was overturned on review, the point was replayed, which he lost.
"I get a short ball - not saying it's going to be 6-3, but there's a good chance," Malisse said after the match. "Then you have to replay the point because they make a mistake. She could've let the ball go. If he wanted to challenge, he could challenge."
Still, Isner is tough to beat in tiebreakers no matter the score. He improved to 37-13 this year.
"It's important points," Malisse said. "If I win the second set, it's a different match."
As he seethed to the chair ump after that second set, "What are you going to say now? `Oh, I'm sorry, I'm sorry.' Who cares, man. I'm two sets to love down."
This one ended in eerily similar fashion to Isner's 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.
Malisse took his dismay out on a ball, chomping on it as if it were an apple.
He insisted later he wasn't suggesting that the American was getting favorable calls at home, though he conceded he was tempted to think that at times. It's to be expected that the New York fans yell at the players a lot, Malisse said, but he didn't appreciate the derision for making challenges that turned out to be successful.
"Half of the crowd doesn't understand what's going on," he said.
"After a while, it's frustrating," Malisse said of the number of times he had to challenge calls that wound up being overturned. "I feel like it was only me challenging the whole time. I hit a serve wide this much" - he held out his hands an inch apart - "the referee goes straight away out. Then Isner hit two serves this long" - holding his hands a foot apart - "nothing gets called. Lucky there's Hawkeye, because otherwise it would've been a total fiasco."
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.''
One surprise Wednesday: American wild card Mallory Burdette is through to the third round in her Grand Slam debut.
The 252nd-ranked Stanford All-American beat No. 69 Lucie Hradecka 6-2, 6-4. A 21-year-old from Georgia, Burdette was this year's NCAA singles runner-up to teammate Nicole Gibbs.
She figured that loss cost her the only chance of making the Open, but she got in as the American woman who earned the most points on the USTA Pro Circuit this summer. Now her next opponent could be Maria Sharapova.
"To end up here at the US Open was a huge surprise,'' she said. "I never expected that at the beginning of the summer.''
In other women's second-round matches, fifth-seeded Petra Kvitova swept Alize Cornet 6-4, 6-3, 15th-seeded Lucie Safarova beat Aleksandra Wozniak 6-3, 4-6, 6-2, and 19th-seeded Nadia Petrova defeated Simona Halep 6-1, 6-1.
American Varvara Lepchenko, seeded 31st, advanced with a 6-2, 6-2 win over Anastasia Rodionova.
In a men's first-round match, Brian Baker of the U.S. continued his strong 2012, defeating Jan Hajek 6-3, 6-4, 6-2. Eighth-seeded Janko Tipsarevic rallied from down two sets to beat 129th-ranked Guillaume Rufin 4-6, 3-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 in 3 hours, 37 minutes.
Other top players on the court later Wednesday include the third-seeded Sharapova and Andy Murray, along with three-time champ Kim Clijsters.