ATLANTA (AP) Top-seeded John Isner avoided an upset in his Atlanta Open title defense Thursday night, rallying for a 4-6, 7-6 (5), 7-5 victory over wild-card entry Robby Ginepri in the second round.
Trailing 5-4 in the third set, the 12th-ranked Isner fought off two match points and evened it at 5-5 with consecutive aces.
The former University of Georgia star had his only service break of the match to go up 6-5 before firing the last four of his 30 aces to close out Ginepri, an Atlanta resident ranked 281st.
Isner's history of tight early matches in Atlanta continued. He began the match with 24 unforced errors in the first set to Ginepri's six.
''This is the fifth year of this tournament, and three times 7-5 in the third,'' he said. ''It's not easy coming in and playing your first match on a hard court in a while. I honestly didn't want to play Robby because he's a good friend, and I knew one of us was going to lose.''
Earlier, Thiemo De Bakker pulled off the upset that Ginepri could not when the Dutch qualifier beat second-seeded Kevin Anderson of South Africa 6-4, 7-5 in match delayed 2 hours, 15 minutes by rain to advance to the quarterfinals.
De Bakker retired from his final qualifying match because of a sore neck yet made the field as one of three ''Lucky Losers'' following the late withdrawals of Gaels Monfils, Richard Gasquet and Radek Stepanek.
Ben Becker of Germany added an upset win, topping seventh-seeded Yen-hsun Lu of Taiwan 6-4, 6-3, and eighth seed Marinko Matosevic of Australia beat American Tim Smyczek 6-4, 7-5.
Isner staved off a bigger upset bid than Anderson faced.
He needed a second-set tiebreaker win to outlast Ginepri, a 31-year-old whose only ATP or Grand Slam win of the year in five prior matches came when he beat Sergiy Stakhovsky 7-6 (3), 3-6, 6-0 in the first round. Last week, Ginepri lost a first round match in Challenger event.
Isner won the tiebreaker 7-5 with an ace to push his career tiebreaker winning percentage to 64.5 percent, second-best in tennis history to Roger Federer's 64.8.