First-Time Winner Spotlight: Steve Johnson
The 26-year-old American is the third first-time winner this year, joining Nick Kyrgios (Marseille) and Diego Schwartzman (Istanbul). It marks the second straight year an American has lifted his first trophy, following Jack Sock's victory in Houston in 2015.
How does it feel to be holding your first ATP World Tour singles trophy?
It's special. There's no doubt about that. It makes it even more special to have my dad, girlfriend, coach, trainer and agent here. To share that moment with everybody is definitely something I'll never forget.
Was this a goal of yours as a junior and in college and how did you envision it?
You've always hoped to be lifting the trophy at the end. Up until today, it hasn't been a reality. To play a very solid final, I'm very happy to win my first title. Hopefully there will be many more to come.
You reached the quarter-finals last week at Queen's Club and posted your first Top 10 win over Richard Gasquet. Did that give you confidence going into this week?
Absolutely. Beating Gasquet, who is such an accomplished player, and to come back from 4-0 down in the first, definitely gives you confidence to beat anybody out there. When things start to click on your side of the net like it did, it's very beneficial.
You beat top seed Kevin Anderson and No. 2 Pablo Cuevas this week. What do you think you did well?
I served well and I played tie-breaks well. On grass, it comes down to that. Against Vasek Pospisil, I squeezed out a couple tie-breaks. Against, Anderson I played great after a rain delay. The next day against Andreas Seppi and today against Cuevas the tactics were different. They play so different, but today I was lucky enough to win the tie-break in the first set and get the break in the second.
Did you go in with a different approach to your second final after Vienna last year?
Yes, I felt more comfortable out there. It's just another match and I've been there once before. In Vienna, Ferrer was the overwhelming favourite and it was a surprise for me to be in a 500 level final. Today, on grass, it was 50/50 against Pablo. Today, I'm happy to ease those nerves and serve it out at 6-5.
In your college career, you won four NCAA team titles and two singles titles at the University of Southern California. How does this compare?
It's completely different. The relief that I felt after winning in college as a senior was something I'll never forget, because that chapter of my life was over and I had something else to look forward to. They're such highs. You play tennis for these moments and I'm lucky to be on the winning side today.
You finished in the Top 40 in the Emirates ATP Rankings the past two years. What were your goals coming into this year?
Just to continue getting better. I didn't want to set a ranking goal, because I could have a great year and miss my goal by maybe two or three spots. Then, I'd spend November and December doubting what I'm doing and I just want to try keep getting better and better.
Who were the players you looked up to and admired growing up?
I was always watching Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras and their US Open finals growing up. Then it was Andy Roddick, Mardy Fish and James Blake and the next group of American guys. They were so fantastic. To be on the tour with those guys for a short time was special. It's nice to now be able to call and text and get advice. It's definitely a blessing to watch those guys on TV and now be in similar spots as them.
Tell us something about yourself that the majority of fans don't know. What do you do for fun away from the court?
I love playing golf when I'm at home in L.A. I live pretty close to the beach, so I love to ride my bike down there just get away from tennis and enjoy the California lifestyle. Nothing crazy. I like to relax and am a pretty easy going guy.
Who has helped you throughout your career to get you to where you are today?
So many people. It's hard to really narrow it down. My parents first and foremost. My dad was my coach growing up and my mom was the rock for whatever I needed. Then you transition to college and my coaches got me from a talented kid to a legitimate tennis player. Now, my coaches, particularly Craig Boynton, have believed in me and gotten me to the next level. Hopefully the sky's the limit.