John Isner returns a shot to Xavier Malisse of Belgium in the second round of play at the 2012 US Open tennis tournament, Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012, in New York. (AP Photo/Mel C. Evans)
NEW YORK (AP) — 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."
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.
Follow Rachel Cohen at https://twitter.com/rachelcohenap