Real Tennis US Open 2015
American Steve Johnson in action at the Australian Open. Picture: AFP Source: AFP
STEVE Johnson was coming off a disappointing first-round loss to Uzbekistan’s Denis Istomin in the 2013 US Open when a curious thing happened.
His phone kept ticking over with Twitter messages congratulating him on how well he was playing.
As it turns out they were intended for Geelong star Steve Johnson, who was lighting up the AFL finals series, averaging 26 disposals and two goals in a September that ended with a preliminary final loss to Hawthorn.
“I get his Twitter messages all the time, ’’ the Californian 25-year-old said. “I’m serious, in September — not last year but the year before — I kept getting all of these messages saying ‘great game’ and I had no idea what the deal was.
Steve Johnson celebrates a goal in the 2013 preliminary final. Picture: Wayne Ludbey Source: Supplied
“So when I came down here I was like ‘what’s the deal with this guy?’ And I’d get another one.
“Then one of the Australian guys said ‘oh, he’s a footballer’. I couldn’t figure it out.’’
Geelong’s Johnson laughed at misunderstanding: “I’m used to copping flak off the opposition supporters after the game. Now I know where all of the positive Tweets are going.’’
Coincidentally the 25-year-old American, who admitted to knowing nothing about AFL football, also goes by the nickname Stevie J.
To most Melbourne Park spectators, a name shared with the Cats footballer and the V8 supercar driver is about the extent of their knowledge of the Los Angeles 25 year old.
But he is coming off a year in which he quietly rose from being ranked outside the top 130 to No. 37. “I like to fly under the radar, ’’ he said. “I don’t want to be the guy on the front page, I just want to go out there and let the tennis do the talking.’’
He is also among a group of American men enjoying a solid tournament here.
Cats star Steve Johnson at the Australian Open last year. Picture: Fiona Hamilton Source: News Limited
Johnson had his “best day at the office’’ in upsetting Colombian No. 30 seed Santiago Giraldo, his second straight-sets win, and will now play Japanese sensation and world No. 5 Kei Nishikori in the third round.
Another former US college graduate, John Isner, also progressed to third round, while his housemate, qualifier Tim Smyczek, pushed Rafael Nadal to five sets in the second round.
Their compatriot Donald Young played Canadian Milos Ranic in the night match on Margaret Court Arena.
“It’s such a global sport now. It’s not like it was 15-20 years ago when the US, Australia were winning everything, ’’ Johnson said.
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