Former college standouts Steve Johnson and Rhyne Williams are going head-to-head for the first time at an ATP event on Monday in Memphis. Both in-form Americans are making a steady push for direct entry into future Grand Slams and appearances in the Top 100. So, who will snag a big win at this 500-point event?
Ricky: Johnson and Williams will be squaring off for the second time at the professional level when they do battle in round one of the U.S. National Indoor Tennis Championships on Monday. They faced each other last fall at the Charlottesville Challenger (also on an indoor hard court), where Williams prevailed 4-6, 6-4, 6-4. Two of the nation’s best college players in recent seasons, they also collided twice in individual competitions. Williams won 1-6, 6-1, 6-4 for the 2010 indoor title before Johnson got revenge with a 4-6, 6-2, 6-1 victory to capture the 2011 National Championship.
Both men are off to a good start to their pro careers. Johnson qualified for the Australian Open before losing to Nicolas Almagro in five sets and he beat Ivo Karlovic last week in San Jose. Williams won the USTA’s wild card into Melbourne before falling to Florian Mayer in five. The world No. 159 (as of Sunday) already had a good weekend in Memphis, qualifying for the main draw thanks to defeats of Tim Smyczek and Daniel Munoz-De La Nava. As their past history and Williams’ recent results suggest, the former Tennessee Volunteer loves the fast conditions that an indoor setting provides. Johnson doesn’t mind them, but he likes to have more time to set up with his huge forehand and he wants to get as much kick as possible with his heavy-topspin serve. Williams seems to be playing just a little bit too well right now for Johnson to overcome his slight surface disadvantage......read more