Davis Cup in Austin – Meet Steve Johnson – NCAA Champion and Davis Cup Practice Partner


Steve Johnson (Photo by Colette Lewis used with permission)

AUSTIN, Texas – Meet 2011 NCAA singles champion Steve Johnson who helped University of Southern California (USC) to win its third straight team title this year. Johnson along with Bradley Klahn and Evan King are practice partners with the US Davis Cup team this weekend as they battle Spain in Davis Cup competition.

“It’s a once in a lifetime experience to be here with these guys,” said John about being a practice partner. “Andy (Roddick), Mardy (Fish) and the Bryan brothers are world class. They are the best at what they do and to see them about how focused and intense and how professional these guys are on and off the court is something to strive for and become.”

Johnson admits that it’s been “kind of a crazy couple of weeks” playing the NCAA’s, winning the singles and team championships. “That’s your goal the whole year is to win the team and then you know do well in the individuals and try and win that. To win both in the same year is a dream come true. It’s kind of a testament as to how hard the school has worked with us and our coaches.”

The Davis Cup week in Austin began with a Fourth of July celebration at Andy Roddick’s home where Johnson won the impromptu hot dog eating contest. “Going into this I’ve known a couple of these guys before and I knew there were going to be some “rookie duties,’” said Johnson. “When Andy has an idea it kind of happens. The practice partners, Tim Curry (USTA Communications Director) did it and one other gentlemen was with us and did it at his house during the Fourth of July barbeque. I ended up winning I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing – it happened it was all fun.”

US Davis Cup captain Jim Courier mentioned during the draw news conference festivities that Johnson’s technique of dipping the hot dogs in water before consuming them won him the hot dog eating contest. “I can attest that solely to Mike Bryan, Bob Bryan they were coaches in my ear and gave me a good strategy. I just stuck to it,” said Johnson. “I think I might sit out a couple of weeks from eating hot dogs, maybe a couple of months.”

How did Johnson became interested in tennis, “my parents were very involved in tennis. My father has been a coach his whole life and my mother played tennis her whole life and I got into tennis when I was two, they told me, Johnson said. “They just stuck a racquet in my hand and was just hitting a beach ball around the house. I played my first tournament at five. My dad was my coach all through the juniors – it’s kind of a family thing to be into tennis. It’s nice to go to school close to home so they can follow my career.” Johnson is from Orange county California which is an hour from USC. “Far enough that I’m away from home but close enough that they can be there supporting me.”

As to his tennis future, “I absolutely want to turn pro that has been my goal as the years have gone on,” said Johnson. “I’m having a ton of fun being out here playing and the game is progressing which is amazing and I have one more year of school left. I will actually defer from one year of school in the fall and just go for season- which is January to May so I’ll have the rest of this year to travel and play and try to test my luck against these guys. And try and go back to school in January and try to get a fourth team title in a row and hopefully another individual.”

“Growing up when I was younger my idols were – Pete Sampras, (Andre) Agassi, all these guys that were the best Americans- Jim Courier. They were my idols and now as I’ve kind of gotten older I’ve seen the success that Andy (Roddick) has had and Mardy (Fish), most of the American guys, especially the Bryan brothers has been inspiring to try to be come like one of these guys. It’s been amazing this week to see how they go about their tennis and their lifestyle and how professional it is to get to where they are now and to stay there.”

“To be warming up a guy for his (Davis Cup) match and to be sitting on the sidelines when it’s all happening – it’s an incredible experience.”