Johnson To Meet Bellucci In Houston Final
American Steve Johnson advanced to his third career ATP World Tour final on Saturday after beating his red-hot compatriot Jack Sock 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 at the Fayez Sarofim & Co. US Men's Clay Court Championship in Houston. The 27-year-old Johnson came back from a break down in the third set to gain his second career win against Sock, who became the first 20-match winner on the ATP World Tour in 2017 on Friday.
“Any time you can play on a Sunday in a tournament, it's a good week,” Johnson said. “It's my first final on U.S. soil... It's fun to get a chance to try to win something on home soil.”
Johnson will try to win his second career ATP World Tour title against Brazilian Thomaz Bellucci, who ended the dream run of #NextGenATP American Ernesto Escobedo 5-7, 6-4, 6-2 in Saturday's earlier semi-final. Johnson and Bellucci have played each other only once in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, in the second round of the 2016 Australian Open. Johnson won in straight sets.
“He's a clay court guy. He knows how to play on this stuff. He's had a great week so far. So it's going to be a different match-up than the last time we played,” Johnson said.
Bellucci has certainly worked to reach his first final in Houston. The 29 year old has won four consecutive three-set matches. He will be playing in his first ATP World Tour final of the season and the eighth of his career. The left-hander will try to win his fifth ATP World Tour title.
“It's tough to play three sets every day. I didn't have one day off,” Bellucci said. “I hope to be better tomorrow.”
All four of Bellucci's titles have come on clay but he hasn't taken home an ATP World Tour crown since 2015 Geneva. The left-hander made the Quito final last year but fell to Victor Estrella Burgos of the Dominican Republic.
Johnson will be playing in his first ATP World Tour final on clay. The right-hander has now reached a final on three different surfaces. He won Nottingham last year on grass (d. Cuevas) and lost on the hard courts in Vienna in 2015 (l. to Ferrer).
Johnson's compatriot Escobedo was trying to reach his first ATP World Tour final. The 20-year-old wild card had never won an ATP World Tour match on clay before this week.
“I competed hard this week. It was a great tournament, great atmosphere out there. I learned a lot and can't wait for the future,” Escobedo said. “I feel like I belong on the ATP [World Tour]. My game is there. I just have to work harder and stay disciplined.”
Escobedo entered the ATP World Tour 250 tournament at a career-high No. 91 in the Emirates ATP Rankings and is projected to move to No. 72 when the new rankings are released on Monday.