Top seed and defending champion John Isner defeated old pal Nicolas Mahut 6-2, 7-6 (2) in the second round of the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships at Newport, R.I., yesterday. Isner and Mahut will forever be linked by their epic first-round marathon at Wimbledon in 2010. That match, the longest ever played, lasted 11 hours and five minutes and spanned three days, with Isner winning it 70-68 in the fifth set. They met up again last year at the All England Club, also in the opening round. Isner won that one in straight sets in just about two hours. And if the coincidence of that pairing wasn’t strange enough, the Wimbledon draw had them scheduled to meet early this year also, only this time in the second round. But for Columbian Alejandro Falla’s upset of the No. 11-ranked Isner in the opening round, the duo would have battled yet again. Isner improved to 3-1 against Mahut, all on grass. The 30-year-old Frenchman, ranked No. 65, won their first meeting at Queen’s Club in 2008. Isner broke in the first game of the match and again in the third en route to a 4-0 lead. The 6-foot-9 American closed out the first set in just 31 minutes, serving up aces on the final three points. Mahut hit just 42 percent of his first serves and double faulted four times in the opening stanza. The Frenchman steadied in the second set, as both players held serve throughout to force a tiebreaker. Isner sealed the win when Mahut double faulted on match point after one hour and 18 minutes of play. “I certainly started off very well,” Isner said. “I would’ve liked to have won the match not in a tiebreaker. I had some chances, let them slip through, but all in all very happy to be back in the quarterfinals.” Isner had 13 aces and won 83 percent of the points on his first serve. “Next year’s Wimbledon we’ll probably see each other,” the big American said, smiling when his news conference ended.