Isner, Haas, Gulbis advance in Delray Beach

John Isner advances in Delray Beach on Tuesday with a three-set victory over Jesse Levine. Isner is joined in the second round by Tommy Haas and Ernests Gulbis.

(1) John Isner d. Jesse Levine 7-6(3), 5-7, 6-4

A first-round thriller at the Delray Beach International Tennis Championships saw Isner hold off Levine in two hours and 18 minutes on Tuesday night. The world No. 19 fired a ridiculous 28 aces while improving to 5-0 this season in tiebreakers.

Isner started strong by breaking for a 3-1 lead in the opener only to give it right back in the fifth game. The 6’9” American came close to falling behind late in the set, but he saved two break points at 5-5 and also stormed back from a 3-0 deficit in the ensuing tiebreaker. In fact, Isner went on a seven-point winning streak to erase the deficit and he converted his first set point on a Levine double-fault.

Both players held with far more effectiveness throughout the second until Levine finally got a look at 5-6. Isner saved one set point with an ace before Levine delivered a running forehand pass on his second chance. Despite having the momentum, the 95th-ranked Canadian dropped serve right away in the decider. It did not matter that Isner squandered five more break opportunities at 4-2 because he served out the proceedings the rest of the way. Delray Beach’s No. 1 seed will face Go Soeda on Thursday for a quarterfinal spot.

(2) Tommy Haas d. Igor Sijsling 5-7, 6-4, retired

Haas had an intense battle on his hands but Sijsling was forced to retire with an ankle injury after one hour and 24 minutes. The 34-year-old German endured a terrible time holding serve in the first set and his third donation at 5-5 ended up costing him. Sijsling, who had twice failed to consolidate a break, had no trouble closing things out in the 12th game.

Haas 4
Set two progressed in completely different fashion, with both men dominating on serve en route to 4-4. On the first point of the ninth game with Haas serving, Sijsling suffered an ankle sprain and could not recover. The 74th-ranked Dutchman toughed out two more games but retired after losing the second set. Next up for Haas is an in-form Denis Istomin, who overcame Benjamin Becker 6-7(3), 6-4, 7-5.

(Q) Ernests Gulbis d. (WC) James Blake 6-1, 6-4

One day after Gulbis went on a borderline tirade at the ATP’s Top 100 rankings, he gave a free lesson to the player ranked 99th in the world. Gulbis broke serve seven times in nine return games to erase Blake in one hour and 12 minutes. The 109th-ranked Latvian took control right away by winning the first nine points of the match and he never looked back in the opening set despite giving one of two breaks back.

Blake briefly showed signs of life by saving a whole host of break points and earning a second scalp of his opponent’s serve for a 3-2 advantage. Gulbis, though, broke right back with ease and eventually pulled ahead 5-3. The 2010 Delray Beach champion failed to serve it out, but the match ended in appropriate fashion with Blake surrendering another service game at 4-5. Next up for Gulbis is No. 3 seed Sam Querrey.

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