Top Seeded Isner Moves Into Second Round

Top Seeded Isner Moves Into Second Round

No. 2 Cilic Goes Down In First Tournament Back

By Steve Dorsey

Top-seeded John Isner turned back an inspired effort by fellow American Jesse Levine to take a straight-sets victory, but Finland’s Jarkko Nieminen upset No. 2 seed Marin Cilic of Croatia in first-round action Tuesday afternoon at the Delray Beach International Tennis Championships.
Isner, ranked No. 11 in the world, registered a 6-4, 7-6(15) win against Levine, who brought a ranking of No. 133 to Delray Beach. Levine had five set points in the second set, but each time the 6-foot-10 Isner was serving. Isner clinched the match when he won his sixth match point of the set when Levine hit a backhand long.
Isner now is 9-1 in tiebreakers this year.
The hard-fought win moves Isner to the second round where he will face American Ryan Sweeting, who breezed to a 6-1, 6-1 win against Donald Young on Monday. It will be the first meeting between Isner and Sweeting.
“It was a long one,” Isner said of the lengthy two-setter against Levine. “If I had lost that second set, I didn’t really fancy my chances in the third because the humidity was really getting to me. So I’m very lucky to advance. I sort of feel like I’m playing with house money now. . . . The humidity just saps the energy out of me, but I should be stronger tomorrow.”
Isner could leap into the top 10 of the ATP World rankings should he win the Delray Beach ITC this week.
“It’s nice,” Isner said of his No. 11 ranking. “It’s my highest ranking and I’d love to get into the top 10, but even though it’s only one spot, I still have a long way to go.”
Nieminen was humble in victory during his post-match press conference, praising the effort of Cilic, who has been nursing a left knee injury since last November and was playing his first tournament of the year.
“He’s a great player, but sometimes I felt that he played up and down, not as consistent as he usually is,” Nieminen said of the ATP No. 21-ranked Cilic.
Cilic said he felt he was hitting the ball well except for some critical points in the match.
“My first match in a while and it felt a little bit awkward, I would say,” Cilic said. “I played some moments pretty good, but I think on a consistent level, not great, but I was expecting that might happen. And Nieminen, he’s a scrappy player, a lefty, and we had some wind during our match, so conditions were not as easy as I’m used to from playing indoor in Europe and in practice.”
Nieminen said the victory against Cilic will help improve his confidence.
“I’m really satisfied with the win in Sydney,” said Nieminen, who recently won the Sydney International singles title. “I had one the best offseasons I’ve had and stayed healthy, which I didn’t the year before. I’m playing really well and it’s good coming here playing against a tough player in the first round.”
Two other seeds also advanced to the second round. Germany’s Phillipp Kohlschreiber, the No. 5 seed here, defeated Olivier Rochus 6-1, 6-4, and No. 7 seed Kevin Anderson of Russia ousted American Austin Krajicek, also 6-1, 6-4. Steve Darcis ousted No. 3 Viktor Troicki 6-4, 4-6, 6-4. The other ITC first-round winners Tuesday afternoon were Ernests Gulbis, who defeated Alejandro Falla 6-4, 6-1; Ivan Dodig, who downed Matthias Bachinger 4-6, 6-4, 6-4; Xavier Malisse, a 7-6(3), 6-3 winner over Guillermo Garcia-Lopez; and Tim Zmyczek, who downed Jurgen Melzer 6-4, 2-6, 7-5.
Michael Chang defeated Mikael Pernfors 7-6, 3-6, 13-11 in the third-place match of the ATP Champions Tour.
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