PARIS -- Break points are the essence of professional tennis.
Holding serve is critical to success at the highest level, and usually those handful of points determine the winner.
On Friday, No. 10 seed John Isner's serve was constantly threatened by Tommy Robredo, a crafty clay-court cat from Spain. On no fewer than 13 occasions, Isner faced a break point; in retrospect, any one of them could have swung the tantalizingly taut match in the Court No. 1 stadium they call The Bullring. And, somehow, the pride of the Georgia Bulldogs won them all.
In fact, Isner didn't get his first (and only) break of serve until the penultimate game -- the 50th -- but he made it count. Isner won 7-6 (13), 7-6 (3), 6-7 (5), 7-5 to advance to the fourth round. He's the first American man to reach the second week at Roland Garros in four years. Robby Ginepri did it in 2010 but lost to Novak Djokovic.
Saturday, Jack Sock and Donald Young will try to follow his example. Sock, a 21-year-old Nebraskan, meets Serbia's Dusan Lajovic, while the 24-year-old Young attempts to win the third straight red-clay match of his life when he takes on Guillermo Garcia-Lopez.
If Sock and Young manage to win, it would be the first time since 1995 that three U.S. men made the final 16.
"Yeah, I mean, that's cool for me," Isner said in his postmatch press conference. "It's not something I think about too much, but at the same time, I'm going to really be pulling on Jack and Donald tomorrow. It would be pretty nice to sock it to all you guys, we have three guys in the round of 16.
"It's doable, too. I think they have obviously very tough matches, but very winnable matches, as well."
Another record for Fed
Don't look now, but a 32-year-old man leads all ATP World Tour players with 31 match victories in 2014.
Yes, Roger Federer still has some pop. He didn't have his serve broken even once in a 7-5, 6-7 (7), 6-2, 6-4 win over No. 31 seed Dmitry Tursunov. For a record 12th time, Federer is into the fourth round and the second week at Roland Garros.
"I'm delighted, of course," Federer acknowledged after the 3-hour, 7-minute match, "but the tournament goes on. So I have won 60 matches here. I have reached the last 16, so it's great."
The Swiss champion admitted that early in his career clay was not his favorite surface.
"I grew up on clay when I was younger, so most of the time when I play on clay courts when I was younger, it was indoors," Federer said. "But I remember that here at Roland Garros I lost to [Patrick] Rafter when I was a younger player.
"So at the start of my career, clay was not my favorite surface. I got my best results in indoor courts or hard courts. So people thought at that time that I was only a fast-court player. But that's not the case. So I'm very happy with this record, and I'm enjoying it."
A rare double bagel
Apparently, Maria Sharapova got the memo.
She's only the No. 7 seed here at Roland Garros, but after the first three seeds exited alarmingly early -- including No. 3 Agnieszka Radwanska on Friday -- Sharapova is the favorite to win her second French Open in three years.
She had the look of a front-runner in crushing Paula Ormaechea of Argentina 6-0, 6-0 -- in all of 51 minutes. After a squirrely opening game when she faced two break points, Sharapova went on to win 54 of 71 points.
In a battle of major semifinalists, No. 13 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France dispatched No. 22 seed Jerzy Janowicz fairly easily, 6-4, 6-4, 6-3. Tsonga will face No. 2 seed Novak Djokovic on Sunday.
In a third-round meeting of former French Open semifinalists, No. 9 seed Dominika Cibulkova was defeated by No. 19 seed Sam Stosur 6-4, 6-4. Cibulkova was the fourth top-10 seed to get knocked out before the fourth round ... No. 6 Tomas Berdych knocked off No. 27 seed Guillermo Bautista Agut 6-1, 6-2, 6-7 (4), 6-4 ... Ernests Gulbis, the man who last year called the big four "boring," was at it again Friday after taking out Radek Stepanek in the third round. He's hoping his two younger sisters, Laura and Monika, don't follow him into the profession of tennis because women need "to think about kids." More Gulbis: "A woman needs to enjoy life a little bit more. Needs to think about family, needs to think about kids." Gulbis' older sister, Elina, is a lawyer.