FAIRFIELD, CA—Currently ranked No. 99 in the world, Steve Johnson is on the verge of dropping outside the Top 100 for the first time since March of 2014. The winningest player in NCAA tennis history, Johnson has competed in 29 consecutive Grand Slam main draws, putting him 8th among active players in consecutive majors played. But Johnson will put his streak in jeopardy if he is unable to halt his current skid.
“It’s been a bit of a tough year for me overall,” Johnson told Baseline before his first-round victory over Michael Mmoh at the Fairfield Challenger.
It was clear he needed to make a change, so he did. Johnson recently split with longtime coach Craig Boynton and has reunited with a very familiar face, his former college coach Peter Smith.
Smith does not plan to travel with Johnson during the entire year, but is thrilled to work with his former college star, who anchored his Trojan teams to four consecutive National Championships from 2009-2012.
“We’ve always just clicked,” Smith said. The recently retired Southern California coach has worked with Johnson since their college days, and has often been spotted in his player box at Indian Wells, and other domestic events. “I’ve always been involved in Stevie’s tennis, but this time it’s a little different, there’s no team responsibilities this time.”
Both Southern California lifers, Smith and Johnson are a perfect match. Johnson was a very good junior player, but under Smith, he developed into the greatest college tennis player of all time, ending his career with a 72-match win streak in singles, a record that will likely stand for quite some time.
The last guy to win the NCAA Singles Championship with a perfect record was USC's Steve Johnson who did it in the 2011-12 season. Here were Johnson's results in his final year when he only dropped 4 sets in 37 matches. pic.twitter.com/rJm8IXQrDI— Bobby Knight (@College10s2day) April 13, 2019
Smith plans to travel with Johnson to a handful of events next season, especially the Grand Slams and Masters 1000 events in the States. There are still plenty of details up in the air, but the excitement is palpable.
“Hopefully we can make some magic again,” Johnson said.
With Johnson’s straight-set victory over Michael Mmoh, the Trojan tandem is off to a winning start.
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