American Johnson wins Houston clay court tennis title

WASHINGTON, April 15 -- American Steve Johnson retained his title after beating compatriot Tennys Sandgren 7-6(2), 2-6, 6-4 in the final of the US men's clay court championship held in Houston on Sunday.

Johnson became the first American to go back-to-back in Houston since Andy Roddick in 2001-02. The California native had to go through his compatriots to pull it off as he beat five Americans - Ernesto Escobedo, Frances Tiafoe, John Isner, Taylor Fritz and Sandgren - to hoist his third ATP World Tour title.

"It means a lot to win here. This is one of the best tournaments of the year. You get the atmosphere of the great club, and everything goes with it. The people are awesome, everybody involved with the tournament makes it so special. Always happy to come back here and start my clay-court season," the 28-year-old Johnson said.

He and Sandgren had never faced off in tour-level action, but Sandgren had won both of their prior meetings, at the Futures level and in ATP Challenger Tour actions.

"He definitely had the upper hand until I could turn the momentum there in the second set. He was doing a lot of good things, and I wasn't really sure where to attack him. He was defending well, and his slice is tough to hit," Sandgren said.

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