Johnson captures Hall of Fame on Newport’s grass court
NEWPORT, R.I. (AP) — Steve Johnson continued his long road back and success this year by capturing the Hall of Fame Open on Sunday.
The 28-year-old American defeated Ramkumar Ramanathan, of India, 7-5, 3-6, 6-2, on Newport’s grass court for his fourth career ATP title and second this season.
When it was over, Johnson pointed to the sky and pumped his fist before going over to the far corner of the court to give his coach, Craig Boynton, a handshake and hug.
“He’s seen me when I was (ranked) 200 and losing first rounds of challengers, questioning playing tennis and now he’s seen me winning titles and finals of 500s,” Johnson said. “The highs and lows, he’s stuck with it.”
Ranked 48th coming into the week, Johnson added to his title in Houston this year. It’s been a nice rebound after he lost his father, Steve Sr. to a heart attack last year. His Dad, who had been his coach until Johnson went to college, traveled and watched him at all his tourneys.
“It’s been an emotional couple of years,” he said to the crowd during an interview at the end of the match.
Now, Johnson, who reached as high as No. 21 in the world in 2016, will be ranked 34th beginning the week.
Asked if he could crack the Top 25, he said: ”(I’ve) done it before.”
Johnson broke in the second game of the final set, hitting a forehand-cross winner to close the game.
“Steve was best, hitting some forehands today,” said the 23-year-old Ramanathan, who was seeking his first ATP title. “He played a good third set and had the better of me.”
Up 2-0 in the third, Johnson closed the game with a hard serve that Ramanathan was barely able to get his racket on. Leading 4-2, Johnson yelled out loud “Focus!” to himself before closing out the seventh game.
The match was moved from a 3 p.m. starting time yesterday to a scheduled start 11 a.m. start with the forecast for heavy rain. It began just before 1 p.m. after heavy rain in the morning and was played in misty, windy conditions.
“Misting, raining for the majority of the match, but never hard enough for us to stop,” said Johnson, who injured his right shoulder diving for a return shot in the first game of the second and called for the trainer later.
Play was stopped just before the first game of the second set when they brushed the court, but never halted after that.
“These things have a funny way of working out and I’m glad it did,” he said.
The match ended when Johnson hit a forehand winner down the line, breaking Ramanathan for the third time in the match. The other came in the 11th game of the first set.