Steve Johnson carried his early-season ATP Challenger Tour success to the New York Open on Monday. The 30-year-old American earned his first tour-level win of the season, upsetting fifth-seeded countryman Tennys Sandgren 6-7(5), 6-3, 7-6(3) at the ATP 250.
Johnson scraped past the Australian Open quarter-finalist (l. to Federer), saving three break points at 3-4 in the deciding set and twice holding as he served to stay in the match at 4-5 and 5-6.
The right-hander played his best in the deciding-set tie-break, belting a backhand winner to give himself four match points at 6/2. Johnson improved to 2-0 against Sandgren in their ATP Head2Head series (2018 Houston final). He will next meet Italy’s Andreas Seppi, who edged Damir Dzumhur of Bosnia-Herzegovina 6-3, 1-6, 7-6(6).
“I just thought I played a couple good points, down break point at 4-3, and then started off the tie-break with a great return. A couple free points are always key in a tie-break,” Johnson said. “Wins are wins, you take them when you get them and hopefully you string a bunch in a row. That’s my goal.”
Johnson won the Bendigo Challenger last month and fell in the semi-finals of the Newport Beach Challenger on 2 February.
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Sixth seed Miomir Kecmanovic beat American Tommy Paul 6-4, 6-2 and will next face a qualifier, either 38-year-old Italian Paolo Lorenzi or Serbian Danilo Petrovic. Kecmanovic is looking to reach his second ATP Tour semi-final of the season after advancing to the Qatar ExxonMobil Open semi-finals in Doha during week one.
The 2019 Next Gen ATP Finals semi-finalist converted four break points from 11 chances to win his first ATP Head2Head matchup with Paul, who reached the third round of the Australian Open (l. to Fucsovics).