NEW YORK - 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. It was essentially the opposite from Olympic gold medalist Andy Murray, who beat 118th-ranked Ivan Dodig of Croatia 6-2, 6-1, 6-3.
But Isner's match was the story of the day. He 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."
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
"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."
In other action, Brian Baker, who returned to Flushing Meadows after a seven-year absence brought about by a series of operations, moved into the second round by beating 92nd-ranked Jan Hajek of the Czech Republic 6-3, 6-4, 6-2.
"Being older and knowing how (easily) the game was taken away from me, it's very easy to appreciate it a lot. I don't take anything for granted," Baker said. "I remember several years, watching it on TV, wishing I was here, so just to be here is an awesome feeling. And then at the same time, the competitive side kicks over, and I want to do really well."
Baker began the year ranked 458th but is now 70th. Getting his ranking up allowed him to get direct entry into the main draw at the U.S. Open, the first time in his career that he didn't need a wild-card invitation or make it through qualifying to earn a spot in the field at a Grand Slam tournament.
"It's always exciting to play the Open, but that was another sense of just pride - knowing I had done it on my own," Baker said. "I hope to be able to play several more U.S. Opens, but I don't take any of them for granted. My mind is in the present right now, and I still have a long way to go this next couple of weeks."
Next up is a second-round match against eighth-seeded Janko Tipsarevic of Serbia.
Tipsarevic needed more than 3 1/2 hours to win his opener, coming back after dropping the first two sets to eliminate Guillaume Rufin of France 4-6, 3-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-2.
"I haven't played him since junior Wimbledon; might have been like 2001 or 2002. Haven't even practiced with him since then," Baker said about Tipsarevic, a quarterfinalist in New York last year, while Baker was following the tournament from afar. "I'll have to get the game plan together and watch some tape and try to formulate something that will be in my favor."
Fourth-seeded David Ferrer stopped Kevin Anderson 6-4, 6-2, 7-6.
"I feel good," Ferrer said. "It was not an easy match. He's a really strong player. He has a very strong first and second serve. I'm happy because I played good in my first round."
Lleyton Hewitt, the 2001 champion at Flushing Meadows, needed nearly three hours to defeat Germany's Tobias Kamke 4-6, 6-2, 6-1, 6-4.
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.
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