Steve Johnson Captures USTA Futures Title
Sept. 19, 2011
CLAREMONT, CALIF. - Serving bigger and bigger each game, USC senior Steve Johnson captured his first USTA Pro Circuit Futures event with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Darian King on Sunday in the final of the 16th annual Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center USTA $10,000 Pro Classic played at the Claremont Club.
"It feels good to come back and do it here," said top-seeded Johnson, who is playing on the pro circuit as an amateur this season before he returns to USC in the spring. "It's fun to come back and see people I've known for a long time. I've lost matches here and I've won tournaments here. It's a fantastic facility."
In the final, Johnson started quickly with an early break and 3-0 lead relying on his booming serve on big points. "My serve got me out of trouble today at times," he said. "It's something I've definitely been working on."
The 21-year-old Johnson, who lost in three sets to college rival Daniel Kosakowski in the finals at a Sacramento Futures event back in June, will now rest and prepare to win back-to-back Futures events as he is entered in the Costa Mesa Futures tournament this week.
Steve Johnson results:
FEATURE STORY ON JOHNSON BY STEVE PRATT:
CLAREMONT, Calif., (Sept. 14, 2011) - Turn pro or not to turn pro. It's a question that's weighed heavily on the mind of USC senior Steve Johnson for four months although he says he's settled for the next best thing: Taking the fall semester off.
"It's been like being a pro for the past couple of months, really," said the top-seeded Johnson, after needing three tense sets to defeat former junior rival Kyle McMorrow, 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-4, in the first round at the 16th annual Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center USTA Pro Classic being played at the Claremont Club. "Right now it's eat, sleep and drink tennis. I wake up, to the gym by 9, practice, get lunch, hit again. If I were in school it'd be weights, class, practice, class and then try and run. Then it's 9 o'clock at night and no one wants to do homework then."
The reigning NCAA champion says he contemplated going pro on numerous occasions over the summer. "I was close, but not close," said Johnson, who is from the City of Orange in Southern California. "I mean, I win a round at the Open, then two, then maybe it's different."
He said a chat with John Isner -- who went to Georgia for four years -- at the Cincinnati ATP event before the Open (where he lost in five set to Alex Bogomolov Jr.) helped solidify his decision for good. "I got to talk to him about turning pro or coming back," said Johnson, who was 24-0 in dual matches during his junior year and ended the season on a 35-match winning streak. "All the guys said the same thing: `You're not too old.' "
Johnson said he's also motivated to help the Trojans win four NCAA team titles, something that's only been done once before since the team format was instituted. "I want to come back and set the history books for USC tennis by winning four straight national titles," he said. "It's a goal (teammate) Daniel (Nguyen) and I have."
Only Stanford's Paul Goldstein has accomplished the feat (1995-98).
Johnson dropped the first set against the big-serving McMorrow but was able to rally back in front of his college coach Peter Smith of USC, who saw Johnson beat McMorrow dropping just five games during a dual match at the beginning of April.
"Today I didn't play my best tennis but played well enough to win," Johnson said. "I felt fine but just felt off. I haven't had many days where I'm totally off and today the serve felt good but the forehand was a little off, the backhand a little off and the volley a little off. Everything was just kind of hit and miss."
Also on Wednesday, a wild card (Mousheg Hovhannisyan) and three qualifiers (Alexandre Lacroix, Timothy Kpulun and Thomas Shubert) posted wins during the first round.