Steve Johnson captured the US Men's Clay Court Championship title after fighting off cramps and a determined eighth seed Thomaz Bellucci 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(5).
Johnson had endured a busy few weeks prior to Sunday’s final in Houston.
He first competed in the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event in Miami and then travelled to Australia for a Davis Cup tie before returning home to America to compete in the U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championship.
All the gallivanting was made worthwhile though as he overcame cramps and nerves to lift only his second ever ATP title.
The final itself was a tight one. It lasted almost two-and-a-half hours and both players broke each other three times – the deciding set was won in a tie-breaker.
Speaking afterwards, the 27-year-old American acknowledged that he was lucky to win after cramping up in the third stanza.
“To win on U.S. soil and win when you’re not feeling great is a testament to my willpower and competitiveness,” said Johnson.
“My body has just physically run out of gas after this week. Coming in from Australia kind of put me behind the eight 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.”
Similarly, Bellucci also cited tiredness as a problem that plagued him in the final moments of the encounter but admitted that Johnson deserved to win after delivering the goods when it really mattered.
“I wasn’t cramping, but I was so tired that I couldn’t think to win the match. He was a little bit worse than me [physically], but he was playing unbelievably,” he said.
“I’m a little bit sad because I think I could have won, but I’m happy to make another final.”