Isner secures first-round win at Delray

John Isner survived the longest tiebreak of his career to beat Jess Levine 6-4, 7-6 (17-15) on Tuesday in the first round of the Delray Beach International and then admitted he was lucky.

“I’m playing with the house money now,” said Isner, America’s new Davis Cup hero after a shocking victory over Roger Federer in Switzerland. “The humidity was really starting to get to me, and I am not sure I would have made it through a third set. It was not so much the heat, but after several weeks playing indoors, the humidity was starting to take its toll.”

Isner looked back to the US win against the Swiss with pride.

“I felt I could win before I walked on court against Federer,” he said. “But it was still a big win for us. From a personal point of view, I haven’t kicked on from there and used the confidence it should have given me. I lost early in Memphis and really need to start concentrating on stringing some wins together.”

Isner is heading back to Europe over Easter weekend in early April because the US plays France in the quarterfinals — a tie that will be staged at the legendary Monte Carlo Country Club.

“I’ve never played the tournament there, so I am really looking forward to it,” Isner said. “We have great spirit in the team under Captain (Jim) Courier. Obviously we respect Jim with his record and his passion for Davis Cup, and he prepared us really well during the early part of the week, getting us into the right mind-set. France, with their depth of talent, may start favorites, but I think we have a really good chance.”

American qualifier Tim Smyczek caused the big upset of the day Tuesday by ousting Austria’s Jurgen Melzer — the winner at Memphis on Sunday — 6-4, 2-6, 7-5. Another qualifier, Australia’s Marinko Matosevic, ousted the giant Croat, Ivo Karlovic, 6-3, 6-4.

The No. 2 seed didn’t survive, either. Marin Cilic, another Croat, lost 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 to Finnish veteran Jarkko Nieminen. Cilic was playing his first match since October after knee problems.

“He’s very disappointed,” coach Bob Brett said. “But I don’t think he should be. He played some good tennis and has to realize coming back is a process.”