Los Angeles - Steve Johnson captured his second consecutive
ATP US Clay-Court Championship title on Sunday by outlasting fellow American
Tennys Sandgren 7-6 (7/2), 2-6, 6-4.
Sixth seed Johnson won his third career ATP title, taking
two in a row on Houston clay after his first victory came in 2016 at
Johnson, who is getting married next weekend, was the first
back-to-back US Clay-Court winner since Andy Roddick in 2001-02.
American eighth seed Sandgren, who made a stunning run to
the Australian Open quarter-finals in January, was playing in his first tour
Johnson, ranked five spots ahead of Sandgren at 51, had
never before faced the shock Aussie Open upstart, who ousted Stan Wawrinka and
Dominic Thiem, two top-10 foes, at Melbourne in January.
It was an emotional victory for Johnson, whose father Steve
Sr. died 11 months ago and last saw him play in last year's Houston final.
After the final point, Johnson made a cross sign and
fist-pumped to the heavens, then buried his head on Sandgren's shoulder,
overcame by memories and the moment.
"I'm glad to have won again here in Houston,"
Johnson said. "It means a lot."
After Johnson dominated the first-set tie-breaker, Sandgren
broke for a 4-2 edge in the second set and broke again in the eighth game to
force a third set.
Johnson, 28, took the only break of the final set from
Sandgren, 26, in the ninth game and denied the only break point he faced in the
set in the close-out game.
Results from ATP Tour US Men's Clay-Court Championships in Houston, Texas on Sunday (x denotes seed):
Steve Johnson (USA x6) bt Tennys Sandgren (USA x8) 7-6 (7/2), 2-6, 6-4