Steve Johnson hits the tennis ball back to Robert Farah during the final game of the second set of the 2012 Comerica Bank Challenger championship match on Sunday at the Seascape Sports Club. (Glenn Cravens/Register-Pajaronian)
APTOS — Steve Johnson watched the tennis ball sail by him and did a quick fist pump in the air.
The former two-time NCAA national champion picked up more than a win on Sunday afternoon.
Johnson won the Comerica Bank Challenger singles championship, defeating former University of Southern California teammate Robert Farah 6-3, 6-3.
In addition, he won $14,400 in first place winnings.
He also gained a load of confidence and experience going into the U.S. Open, scheduled to take place in a couple of weeks in New York.
Several tennis stars have seen their careers take off after winning the Comerica Bank Challenger — former champion Andy Murray just recently won an Olympic gold medal — and Johnson said after the match he hopes it does the same.
Johnson is the ninth champion in a row to win the final match in straight sets. He is also the first American to win the championship since 2008, when Kevin Kim won for a second time. Of the 25 champions, Johnson is the 12th from the United States to win it.
He claimed the crown with his parents as well as former coach Peter Smith in attendance. Smith was an entrant in the first Comerica Bank Challenger in 1988.
They were a part of a crowd of vibrant spectators who watched the young star get a break on Farah immediately in both sets. Johnson led 3-0 and 5-1 in the first set before Farah put together a string of winners to make things interesting.
In the eighth game of the first set, Farah had two cross-court winners that dotted the baseline, leaving Johnson in awe. An ace ended the game and pulled Farah to within 5-3.
Johnson finally ended the set in the ninth game, although he needed a lot of second serves to do it. He approached the net a couple of times in the ninth game and put away Farah’s returns, capitalizing on the pressure he put on Farah to do something off rhythm.
The final point was a Farah return that went wide; he was trying to return Johnson’s serve that repeatedly eclipsed 110 mph.
Johnson went up 2-0 in the second set, immediately breaking Farah in the first game. Johnson broke Farah again in the final game, relying on his forehand to end the match.
Johnson entered the tournament ranked 378th on the ATP World Tour, and that is sure to rise with the championship victory.
Prior to Sunday’s victory, he had gone as far as the second round of a tournament in 2012. He was one-and-done in his previous two outings and looked to gain some experience in Aptos as he prepared for the U.S. Open.
For the complete article see the 08-14-2012 issue.
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