Johnson captures singles title
USC junior wins 35th consecutive match to clinch championship
STANFORD, Calif. -- Less than a week after helping the Trojans win their third consecutive -- and 19th overall -- NCAA Team Championship, USC junior Steve Johnson pocketed a title of his own. In today's NCAA Singles Championship match, Johnson carried a powerful win streak into a rematch against one of just three players to have beaten him this season. It took another three-setter to get it done, but by the end of it, Johnson's winning momentum proved unstoppable, as he claimed his 35th consecutive singles win and locked in on the 2011 NCAA Singles crown in beating Tennessee's Rhyne Williams 4-6, 6-2, 6-1.
Johnson becomes the first Trojan ever to win both the NCAA team championship and singles title in the same year since the dual-match format was used to determine national team champions. USC’s Joaquin Loyo-Mayo was a double winner in 1969, but titles before 1977 were not generated in the same format as the NCAA team dual-match brackets followed by individual tournament play. In his domination of the team and singles draws this season, Johnson becomes the 12th Trojan to win an NCAA singles crown. The last USC player to win the NCAA singles title was Cecil Mamiit in 1996, and the last time any player captured both the team and singles titles was in 2004.
Johnson’s historic run to this year’s NCAA titles gained momentum with a surge through Pac-10 play, where USC won the conference championship just before Johnson claimed both the Pac-10 Singles and Doubles titles. The Pac-10 Player of the Year would pick up the NCAA Team Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player award before digging into NCAA Singles play. By that time, Johnson’s win streak was also ballooning along with his award list.
Fast forward to today’s title match – Johnson’s fourth of the month. Top-seeded Johnson was up against Williams for some redemption on a grander scale even than the ITA National Indoor championship match that Williams had edged Johnson out of back in November. The No. 4 seed in the NCAA tourney, Williams came out firing on all cylinders, and put Johnson on the ropes by breaking the big-hitting Trojan in the first game of the match. The players would hold serve the rest of the way, as Williams fought off Johnson’s hopes of breaking even to tack up the first set in favor of the Volunteer. Johnson hardly faltered the rest of the way, however, getting ahead 3-0 in both remaining sets, and pounding out an extra break of Williams in the third to bring home the 4-6, 6-2, 6-1 with one last power serve that Williams shanked to put Johnson on the podium with the championship trophy.
Johnson now joins an elite group of Trojans to win the NCAA singles crown, making it 14 titles total for USC men – including double-winners Alex Olmedo and Dennis Ralston -- to go along with that nation-leading 19 team championships claimed by Troy.