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By Richard Pagliaro | Thursday, August 18, 2016

Steve Johnson

Steve Johnson stopped Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, 6-3, 7-6 (6), ensuring he will replace John Isner as the new American No. 1.

Photo credit: ITF Olympic Tennis

Chants of "USA! USA!" were echoing in Steve Johnson's ears, while his eyes remained riveted on the ball.

Johnson transformed his third-round match against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga into an American anthem.

More: Dimitrov Defeats Wawrinka To Reach Cincy Quarterfinals

The 23rd-ranked Johnson subdued the seventh-seeded Tsonga, 6-3, 7-6 (6), in a monumental Cincinnati victory that vaulted him to a prominent place in American tennis.

The former all-American at USC will now take over as the top-ranked American.

Reaching his first career Masters quarterfinal, Johnson will leap-frog 22nd-ranked John Isner and become the new American No. 1 when the new ATP rankings are released on Monday.

"It hasn't really sunk in yet," Johnson told ESPN's Patrick McEnroe afterward. "I don't know if I ever thought it was possible. I think it's just great we have a lot of guys pushing toward the top and that's what we need in American tennis."

Isner, who has been the top-ranked American every seek since July 29th, 2013, fell to fourth-seeded Milos Raonic, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (5) in yesterday's second round.

Johnson, who partnered Jack Sock to win the Olympic doubles bronze medal last week, walked onto Grandstand court knowing he could rise to No. 1 with a win, but tried to block that goal out of his mind.

"I was told (about it)," Johnson said. "You don't want to pay attention, but it's one of those things you know. I'm just so happy to get through that second set."

The 31-year-old Tsonga, who held set points in the second-set tie break, was undone by Johnson's relentless play and his inability to break. Johnson fought off all six break points he faced, one read after Tsonga failed to convert any of the seven break points he held against American wild card Reilly Opelka in round two.

After a ragged 6-14 start to the season that included some gut-wrenching blown leads, Johnson has won 20 of his last 26 matches, including capturing his first career title on the grass of Birmingham in June.

Dispatching Tsonga, Johnson earned his second career Top 10 victory. The 26-year-old American will face former Wimbledon semifinalist Grigor Dimitrov for a semifinal spot.

Dimitrov defeated second-seeded Stan Wawrinka, 6-4, 6-4, his fourth straight victory over the two-time Grand Slam champion.

Johnson has won two of three meetings with the 34th-ranked Bulgarian, including a four-set victory at Wimbledon this year.


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