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Johnson wins Nottingham for first career tour title

NOTTINGHAM, ENGLAND - JUNE 24: Steve Johnson of USA plays a forehand during his men's singles quarter-final match against Kevin Anderson of South Africa during day five of the ATP Aegon Open Nottingham at Nottingham Tennis Centre on June 24, 2016 in Nottingham, England. (Photo by Daniel Smith/Getty Images)
June 25, 2016 12:47 PM

By Ashley Marshall, USTA.com

Just one month after claiming his first doubles title, Steve Johnson got his first taste of individual success on the eve of Wimbledon.

Johnson won the first singles championship of his career on Saturday, defeating Pablo Cuevas, 7-6(5), 7-5, on the grass of the Aegon Open in Nottingham, England.

The victory gives Johnson a boost of confidence heading to the All England Club on Monday, where he'll begin his Grand Slam campaign against world No. 60 Malek Jaziri.

"I take lots of confidence from this," Johnson told ATPWorldTour.com. "Any time you can be the last guy standing at a tournament is definitely a great feeling. I'm super happy. ... Starting Monday comes Wimbledon, so there's no time to relax with another tournament right around the corner."

On Saturday afternoon, the 26-year-old led from the start, holding to love in an opening game that lasted less than two minutes. The finalists exchanged holds comfortably in the first set, neither one facing a break point through the first 12 games. Johnson, who won a doubles title in Geneva, Switzerland, with fellow American Sam Querrey in late May, fell behind, 3-1, in the tiebreak before winning six of the next eight points to take the opening set.

Johnson continued to serve well in the second set, running out to a 4-2 lead before being broken for the first time when he was serving for a 5-3 lead. But Cuevas' momentum was short-lived, and Johnson broke back to establish a 6-5 advantage before sealing the title on his second match point.

Ranked No. 38 in the world, Johnson was seeded sixth in Nottingham and therefore earned a bye into the second round. He defeated Australian John Millman in straight sets in Round 2 and needed a pair of tiebreaks to edge past No. 11 seed Vasek Pospisil in the round of 16. 

The former NCAA singles champion outlasted top-seeded Kevin Anderson, 7-6(6), 5-7, 6-4, in the quartefinals before dispatching Italy's Andreas Seppi, 6-4, 6-4, in Friday's semi.

The win snaps a run of inconsistent results for Johnson, who had failed to advance past the third round of any tournament this year before his run in Nottingham. But with the North American hard-court swing immediately following Wimbledon, Johnson hopes this weekend's result reignites the second half of his season.

"It feels really good, I'm not going to lie," Johnson said. "I had some ups and downs so far this year. To find my groove on the grass is fantastic. I had a good week at Queen's Club and felt pretty comfortable on the grass. Once I got here and played my first couple of matches, I knew I was definitely a contender to win this."