Johnson Defeats Sandgren to Shield Houston Name

Tennys Sandgren plays against Steve Johnson both of United States during the first set of the U.S. Men's Clay Court tennis Championship final at River Oaks Country Club on Sunday

Tennys Sandgren plays against Steve Johnson both of United States during the first set of the U.S. Men's Clay Court tennis Championship final at River Oaks Country Club on Sunday

Defending champion Steve Johnson wore down Taylor Fritz 7-5, 6-7 (4), 6-2 on Saturday, breaking his 20-year-old countryman twice in the third set after letting two match points slip away in the second in the U.S. Men's Clay Court semifinals. This was their first meeting and Steve had to work hard to emerge as a victor, winning just one point more than his rival and suffering three breaks of serve from five opportunities he gave to Sandgren.

The 28-year-old American teared-up after match point, claiming the title roughly a year after the passing of his father.

The 26-year-old Sandgren, who broke out by reaching the quarterfinals at the Australian Open in January, broke down mentally in the last few games of the third set, loudly admonishing himself.

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Sandgren broke Karlovic to level at 4-4 in the opening set, denied the Croatian on a break chance in the ninth game and then dominated the tie-breaker, scoring five of the last six points. Serving for the title, he saved a break point with a risky forehand down the line victor and a service victor pushed him over the finish line, celebrating his third title on the Tour and hoping for more of the same in the weeks to come after mediocre results in the recent months that has kept him out from the Top 50.

Johnson is the first player to win the Fayez Sarofim & Co.

No player had repeated in the only men's clay-court tournament in the US since Andy Roddick won back-to-back at a different venue in 2001-02. He improved to 3-1 in career finals.

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