2/27/13 5:02 AM | Ricky Dimon
Americans are dealt different hands on Tuesday in Delray Beach. John Isner outlasts Jesse Levine in three sets to reach the second round but James Blake goes down in flames at the hands of 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. 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.
(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 on Tuesday afternoon. 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 donating another service game at 4-5. Next up for Gulbis is No. 3 seed Sam Querrey.
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