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Johnson earns rare clay-court back-to-back win

From ESPN - April 15, 2018

HOUSTON -- Steve Johnson shrugged off numerous missed opportunities to beat first-time ATP Tour finalist Tennys Sandgren 7-6 (2), 2-6, 6-4 on Sunday to become the first player to successfully defend the U.S. Men's Clay Court title in 16 years.

Johnson, a 28-year-old from Palos Verdes, California, won only two of the 14 break points he had against Sandgren's serve, but the second in the penultimate game of the nearly two-and-a-half-hour match put him in position to serve for the match, his third three-setter in a row.

Johnson then fended off a break point himself and secured the title, only his third at the ATP level, when Sandgren lofted a backhand return a couple of feet long.

"I felt like I could have taken more advantage of all those break points," Johnson said. "I did not play the way I would have liked to play, and then he started to play good at the end of the second set. In the third set, I was just hanging on at the beginning and trying to fight off his momentum. A final is not like any other match, but you try to trick yourself into thinking it is. That's what the top guys do so well."

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