Highest-ranked American John Isner let out a big exhale of relief while waving to the crowd after getting past an argumentative Xavier Malisse 6-3, 7-6 (5), 5-7, 7-6 (9) Wednesday in a suddenly tight first-round match at the U.S. Open.

The 6-foot-9 Isner hit 20 aces and ended the match with a service winner on his third match point. He was given that last match point when Malisse pushed an easy backhand volley into the net. Malisse grabbed the ball and shoved it in his mouth and chomped on it as though it were an apple.

Seconds later, the No. 9-seeded Isner wrapped up the victory, improving to 37-13 in tiebreakers this season.

Malisse exchanged angry words with spectators and the chair umpire at various points during the match.