Steve Johnson wins NCAA tennis title
STANFORD, Calif. -- Southern California's Steve Johnson and California's Jana Juricova have been ranked near the top of the individual rankings all year and both entered the NCAA tournament as the top-ranked and top-seeded players.
They both finish the season the same way.
Johnson beat Tennessee's Rhyne Williams 4-6, 6-2, 6-1 to win the NCAA men's singles title Monday. Juricova downed Stanford's Stacey Tan, 6-0, 7-6(2), to win the women's championship.
Top-ranked Johnson became the first player to win the team and singles titles in the same year since 2004. He ended the season with a 35-match winning streak and was 48-3 overall. His last loss was to Stanford's Bradley Klahn on Jan. 17.
"My losses are all so clear to me," Johnson said. "I could tell you exactly what happened. Right now I just want to enjoy this for a while."
Juricova won her 26th straight and finished 36-3 overall.
"I decided to really go for it and give it my best shot to try and take the game away from her," Juricova said. "After that first set she had nothing to lose and I then knew that I had to just keep playing my game."
Johnson said he was more nervous playing for a team championship than for his individual title and there was no pressure.
"When I woke up I realized I had to pack -- I have been here for so long," he said. "I stayed focused and didn't get down after the first set. He played smart. He played four great points and that was it."
Trojans coach Peter Smith, on the other hand, was more nervous for Johnson.
"I just wanted it for him so much," Smith said. "He's one of the greatest kids I have ever coached. He's ready (to turn pro) but knowing who he is, I think he'll be back."
Johnson has three straight team titles to his credit in addition to his singles win.
"It is weird to be in this position," he said. "As a freshman I had no idea we would win three team titles. How many win four in a row? Maybe the one Stanford team (1995-98). It's an incredible opportunity and I feel like we'll be back and be ready for next year."
Williams, a sophomore, said he's going to forget about tennis for a while.
"I don't want to see a court or a ball," he said. "I just want to relax."
After the first set, Williams thought he might have run out of steam.
"My serve went downhill after the first set," Williams said. "I tried to fight through but there wasn't much left in the tank, sad to say."
Juricova felt right at home playing at Stanford.
"I've played so many matches here and on that court, it didn't feel like I was playing away," said Juricova, whose parents made their first trip to the United States, from Slovakia, to attend the tournament. "It's always nice to have people, friends, fans and teammates around to cheer me on."
Tan made an unlikely run to reach the championship match. She played a majority of her Stanford matches at No. 5 singles.
"I figured this was the last match so I wanted to do everything I could to put up a good fight," Tan said. "She has a powerful game and a strong serve and the ability to recover points."
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press