By Chris Oddo | Sunday April 16, 2017
An exhausted Steve Johnson claimed his second career title in Houston by knocking off Thomaz Bellucci in three.
Photo Source: U.S. Clay
Steve Johnson battled through exasperating circumstances in Sunday’s U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championships at the River Oaks Country Club in Houston to defeat Brazil’s Thomaz Bellucci, 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(5).
Bellucci was bidding to become the first player to win five three-set matches en route to an ATP World Tour singles title since Martin Verkerk prevailed in Amersfoot in 2004. The southpaw, who falls to 4-4 lifetime in ATP finals, defeated three Americans in four round to get to the final, but could not get over the hump against Johnson.
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He was cramping in the late stages of the final, but found a way to gut out the win.
Next for Johnson, who flew across the globe early this week to get to Houston after competing in last week’s Davis Cup quarterfinals at Brisbane, Australia, a well-deserved rest.
“To win on U.S. soil and win when you’re not feeling great is a testament to my willpower and competitiveness,” said Johnson, according to ATPWorldTour.com. “My body has just physically run out of gas after this week. Coming in from Australia kind of put me behind the eight ball and then the nerves of trying to close out the final, a lot of factors go into cramping. I was very fortunate to get out of that.”
Johnson converted all three of his break opportunities and saved six of nine break points over the course of the two hour and 24 minute final. He improves to 15-7 on the season and will climb to No.25 in the world as a result of his victory.
Bellucci says the muggy Houston heat got to him as well. “I wasn’t cramping, but I was so tired that I couldn’t think to win the match. He was a little bit worse than me, but he was playing unbelievably,” said Bellucci. “I’m a little bit sad because I think I could have won, but I’m happy to make another final.”
After the final Johnson enjoyed the time-honored Houston tradition—a dip in the club’s fabled pool.