American Steve Johnson won the second ATP singles title of his career on Sunday, knocking off eighth-seeded Brazilian Thomaz Bellucci 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(5) to win the U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championships in Houston, Texas.
Johnson had to fight through fatigue and cramps as the match went on, having played at the Miami Open and then in the Davis Cup at Australia in recent weeks, to pull through against Bellucci. After the two traded set wins, Johnson would fall behind 2-4 in the deciding third set.
He would get the match back on serve with a break point to knot things at 4-4, but his cramping continued to get worse as the match headed into a tiebreaker.
“I can think things through even when times are tough,” said Johnson. “I knew I just had to take a few deep breaths and just get enough going in my body to last another five to 10 minutes out there.”
Johnson was able to win the key points in the tiebreaker, establishing a 6-3 lead. Although Bellucci would save two championship points, Johnson converted on his third to win the title.
“To win on U.S. soil and win when you’re not feeling great is a testament to my willpower and competitiveness,” the 27-year old American said. “My body has just physically run out of gas after this week. Coming in from Australia kind of put me behind the right 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.”