via The Sports Xchange
American Steve Johnson battled leg cramps on Sunday but didn’t allow that to deter him from winning his second career ATP title.
The fourth-seeded Johnson fought off Brazil’s Thomaz Bellucci in a third-set tiebreaker to register a 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (5) victory in the title match of the U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championship at Houston.
Johnson, 27, could feel his body wilting before he found enough energy to finish off the victory.
“To win on U.S. soil and win when you’re not feeling great is a testament to my willpower and competitiveness,” Johnson said afterward. “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.”
Bellucci held a 4-2 lead in the third set when Johnson’s cramps began to intensify.
Johnson won the next two games to even the set. Later, he was having trouble standing while serving with the set tied at 5-5 before eventually closing it out.
“I can think things through even when times are tough,” Johnson said. “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.”
Meanwhile, the eighth-seeded Bellucci lost in an ATP final for the first time in five opportunities.
“I wasn’t cramping, but I was so tired that I couldn’t think to win the match,” Bellucci said afterward. “He was a little bit worse than me (physically), but he was playing unbelievably.
“I’m a little bit sad because I think I could have won, but I’m happy to make another final.