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Aussie Aussie Aussie

On Monday, the 2017 Grand Slam tennis season kicks off with the Australian Open.

USC men's tennis legend Steve Johnson enters 2017 aiming to make it his best season yet. Johnson, ranked No. 33 in the world, is fresh off a deep run in the ATP ASB Classic, where he upset John Isner before falling to Jack Sock in the semis. At No. 33, Johnson just missed out on being seeded at the Australian Open (the top 32 players earn a seed and are guaranteed to avoid other seeded players through the first two rounds).

In Round 1, he'll square up against Argentinean Federico Delbonis, who is ranked No. 42 in the world. Johnson is 1-0 against Delbonis in his career, with a win at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Cincinnati in 2016.

Should Johnson advance, he'll face the winner of Martin Klizan and the No. 4 player in the world, Stan Wawrinka, who has won a Grand Slam event in each of the past three years.

Johnson fell in Round 3 of the Australian Open in 2015 and 2016, and will have to pull off a big upset to get that far this year.

The Australian Open will be broadcast on ESPN and the Tennis Channel from Jan. 16 to Jan. 29.


Bragging Rights for Bellamy

USC men's tennis senior Rob Bellamy cruised to the title at the Battle in the Bay in San Francisco this weekend.

Bellamy enjoyed a bye in the Round of 64, then didn't drop a set in the next three matches (plus an opponent withdrawal), which earned him a spot in the championship. He met Cal Poly's Ben Donovan, the 5-seed in the tournament, in the title match. Bellamy, whose mother was an NCAA singles champion at USC, dispatched of Donovan, 7-6 (3), 4-6, 6-4.

Bellamy became the fifth Trojan in seven years to win the Battle in the Bay singles title.

Bellamy is undefeated in singles play throughout the fall season so far, with three wins in the Porsche Napa Valley Tennis Classic earlier this month.

Next up for the Trojans is the Saint Francis Health System ITA Men's All-American Tournament, starting on Saturday.


21 Pilots

Heading into the 2016-17 season, representatives from each of USC's 21 sports met on top of the AT&T Center for the annual "All 21" photo shoot. The AT&T Center, just two miles from campus, overlooks the skyline of downtown Los Angeles, where the Trojans call home.

Top row, from left to right: Nick Bell (men's water polo), Nina Kelty (lacrosse), Rebekah Ent (cross country), Anika  Apostalon (women's swimming), Eric Sloan (men's track & field), Courtney Jaco (women's basketball), Karen Chung (women's golf), Lucas Yoder (men's volleyball), Reed Malone (men's swimming), Brianna Daboub (women's water polo), Sara Hughes (beach volleyball), Jeremy Martinez (baseball)

Bottom row, from left to right: Zach Banner (football), Zoe Katz (women's tennis), Jordan McLaughlin (men's basketball), Amalie Iuel (women's track & field), Madara Strautmane (rowing), Nick Crystal (men's tennis), Collin Pollard (men's diving), Taylor Whittingham (women's volleyball), Savannah Levin (women's soccer), Sean Crocker (men's golf), Madison Witt (women's diving)

Steve Bronze-son

USC's all-time most decorated men's tennis player added another piece of hardware to his collection last month.

stevie j.jpgSteve Johnson, who won two NCAA singles crowns and four team championships at USC, earned a bronze medal in men's doubles at Rio 2016. Johnson just missed a chance to medal in singles, too --- in the quarterfinals, he showed his fighting spirit in a three-set loss to Andy Murray. Johnson failed to win a game in the first set, but roared back to win the second before falling in the third set tiebreaker to the eventual Olympic champion.

Just hours after that heartbreaking defeat, Johnson teamed up with Jack Sock to win bronze in the doubles tournament.

The top-ranked American man in tennis recently stopped by USC to share stories about his Olympic experience.

Aubrey Kragen (AK): You were so incredibly successful at USC. Was the Olympics a goal for you at the time, or did it become a reality later on?

Steve Johnson (SJ): "When I left USC, the Olympics wasn't even on my radar, because right when I finished, the 2012 Olympics was just happening, but you saw the Olympics and you obviously, one day, would like to play. I'm such a big team guy, and I knew playing in that environment would be remarkable. I kind of knew at the end of last year that I was going to be in, so it took a lot of the pressure off me ... It was such an amazing experience down there. It was hard to describe. It was fun to catch up with a lot of USC athletes and friends I hadn't seen for years, and to see how our paths had taken such different turns, but we all ended up at the same place. It was just such a blast."

AK: You mentioned it took pressure off you making the team early, but when you got there, did you put a lot of pressure on yourself? What were your expectations?

SJ: "I just wanted to make the most of it and make everyone proud of the way I competed and carried myself throughout the Olympics. Once you get towards the end of the week, you realize there is a chance for medals, and the chance to stand on the podium and represent your country. It was in the back of my mind the whole time, because you want to go down there and succeed, but when it becomes a reality, you've really got to focus on what you do best that got you there ... You didn't want to get too far ahead of yourself, but you wanted to make sure that you were ready to go."

AK: Can you talk me through your match against Andy Murray? What was going through your head?

SJ: "It was interesting. I had played him once before and I knew kind of what he was going to do, and I knew what I wanted to do. Sometimes it doesn't go according to plan --- the first set went by a little too fast. I got kicked in the pants a little bit and got a chance to regroup in between sets ... I came out and I was playing great, you know, got my chance to win at the end, and unfortunately, he played great tennis at that point. Nothing I can do but just say, 'Too good' and hopefully get another chance. To get that close in singles to a chance at a medal was definitely heartbreaking, but later that day we got the chance to win the bronze in doubles. The range of emotion went from sadness to complete joy, and I didn't even care about the singles anymore. It was such an interesting day --- emotionally up-and-down."

AK: How were you able to bounce back mentally after a really disappointing loss to perform well enough to medal in doubles that same day?

SJ: "The doubles helped ... That singles match was heartbreaking, so I'm glad I actually got the chance to go out there and play doubles later in the day, to get a chance to rewrite the end of this Olympic story for 2016. Thankfully we went out there and got a win and got a bronze medal, because after the singles, if we would have gone out there and gotten fourth, my experience would be so different. I'm just so happy to walk away with a medal and bring it back to show all my friends and family. It's something I can share with them for the rest of my life."

AK: What's it been like since getting back now that you have a medal? What do you do with your medal?

SJ: "I haven't quite gotten the box for it yet. It's still a work in progress from the Olympics --- I had to leave the next day after we finished, so I didn't get a chance to get a trophy box. I've been on the road since the Olympics, and I just got home, so it's been fun to share it with my parents, my girlfriend's family and my family. I'm going to see my grandparents in a few days, and they've never seen one so it'll be fun for them to see one. I don't like to be the center of attention, by any means, so I just bring it and it kind of sits around until someone wants to see it. It's just fun to share that with friends and family, because if you know anything about any sport, you know what the Olympics are and you know how special that is."

AK: What did it mean to you to meet up with some fellow Trojans in Rio, so far away from home?

SJ: "It's amazing. The Trojan Family is a bond that we'll never not have. It was awesome to watch Kaleigh [Gilchrist] and Kami [Craig] win gold in women's water polo --- I was glued to my TV in Cincinnati. Same with Micah [Christensen] and Murphy [Troy], coming back from down two sets in the third and the fourth ... It's just fun to support and follow those kinds of people that went through the same things as you, and now you can enjoy it on a bigger stage."

AK: Is there anything you learned at USC that helped you when you were in Rio or helped you get there in the first place?

SJ: "They really helped me grow as a person, both on the tennis court and off. I have a lot to thank for my parents and my family and Peter [Smith] and everybody here who was involved with my upbringing and turning me from a talented boy to a grown man who's now responsible for life and adulthood. Having all these people around me and supporting me, they were the first people I called as soon as I won."


#USC2RIO: Steve Johnson

The countdown is on to the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, and once again, USC will be represented by a roster of Trojans that would match most countries. Time to unveil your USC Olympians...

Name: Steve Johnson

Country: United States of America

Event: Men's Tennis

After making a Round of 16 run at Wimbledon, Steve Johnson earned a spot on Team USA for Rio 2016. Ranked No. 25 in the world, Johnson will play singles and doubles (with Jack Sock) at his first Olympic Games.

Johnson is enjoying the best spell of his career, reaching a career-best ranking and winning a professional tournament for the first time. The four-time NCAA champion has always thrived in a team atmosphere, so he should be filled with confidence on the road to Rio.


#USC2RIO: Robert Farah

The countdown is on to the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, and once again, USC will be represented by a roster of Trojans that would match most countries. Time to unveil your USC Olympians...

Name: Robert Farah

Country: Colombia

Event: Men's Tennis

Fresh off a run to the Wimbledon Mixed Doubles Final, Robert Farah is going to his first Olympic Games, representing his native Colombia in neighboring Brazil. Farah will team up with his regular doubles partner, Juan Sebastian Cabal, in the Olympic tournament.

Farah and Cabal are ranked the 27th best doubles players in the world, winning three titles already this season. At USC, Farah was an accomplished doubles player as well, claiming the NCAA title with Kaes Van't Hof in 2008.


Tom Hansen Medal Duo

Announced on Tuesday, men's tennis' Max de Vroome and women's volleyball's Samantha Bricio are this year's Pac-12 Tom Hansen Conference Medal Winners from USC, an annual award given to each institution's outstanding senior male and female student-athletes. Both Trojans displayed the ultimate combination of excellence on the court as well as in the classroom and community. 

This honor is the latest in a long list of accomplishments achieved in Bricio's final campaign, including the 2015 Honda Sports Award, Latino Spirit Award, 2015 AVCA National Player of the Year honors and All-American status. The outside hitter led the nation in four categories in her senior season and graduated in May with a degree in psychology. 

De Vroome capped off a very impressive Trojan career this spring, winning Pac-12 Men's Tennis Scholar-Athlete of the Year and leading USC to its 10th-consecutive NCAA appearance. His career singles record is 109-42 with an all-time best ranking of No. 18, but his success extends far beyond the court as he was also a three-time Pac-12 All-Academic honoree and received a 2016 Pac-12 Post-Graduate Scholarship to continue his education next year. 


Johnson Wins At Last!

Former USC men's tennis All-American Steve Johnson did a lot of winning while at USC, leading the Trojans to four straight NCAA Team Championships, taking home two NCAA singles championships and winning the last 72 matches of his career. In his fourth year on the ATP World Tour, Johnson is finally finding that winning rhythm on the professional level, taking home his first-ever ATP title at the Aegon Open in Nottingham last weekend. 

The 26-year-old bested Uruguay's Pablo Cuevas, 7-6(5), 7-5, to take home the first singles trophy of his career in the final warm-up tournament before Wimbledon began on Monday. 

"It's special. There's no doubt about that," Johnson told on Saturday. "You've always hoped to be lifting the trophy at the end. Up until today, it hasn't been a reality. To play a very solid final, I'm very happy to win my first title. Hopefully there will be many more to come."

Johnson is hoping the positive momentum continues into competition in Wimbledon this week, and early on it's already looking that way as the Trojan defeated Malek Jaziri, 7-5, 7-6 (2), 6-4, on Monday to advance to round two for the second straight year. 


Senior Scholar

It's only Wednesday, but it's hard to imagine someone having a much better week than USC men's tennis' Max de Vroome who was named the Pac-12 Men's Tennis Scholar-Athlete of the Year just one day after earning a spot on the All-Pac-12 First Team. The senior graduated in May with a degree in business administration and an impressive 3.58 GPA while also leading his team to its 10th consecutive NCAA appearance this season. 

The postseason awards have poured in for de Vroome on and off the court. Along with his all-conference status, he is the ITA Southwest Region Senior Player of the Year, a 2016 Pac-12 Post-Graduate Scholarship Winner and a 2016 Pac-12 Tom Hansen Medal Winner.

Polar Pair

A pair of USC men's tennis players on opposite ends of their Trojan careers received all-conference honors on Tuesday, as senior Max de Vroome earned a spot on the All-Pac-12 First Team and freshman Logan Smith was named Pac-12 Newcomer of the Year. A 2016 USC graduate and Pac-12 All-Academic First Team honoree, de Vroome capped off his collegiate career as a winner both on and off the court. 

Just the second Trojan to be named Pac-12 Men's Newcomer of the Year, Smith finished the year with a 27-13 record playing the majority of the season at the No. 3 singles spot. He earned his place on the Pac-12 Honorable Mention team after his breakout season alongside fellow freshman Jake DeVine and sophomore Thibault Forget. Junior captain Nick Crystal earned All-Pac-12 Second Team honors as well.

De Vroome steadily improved throughout his career at USC, receiving a spot on the Pac-12 Honorable Mention team as a sophomore, the All-Pac-12 Second Team as a junior, and now, the honor of a First Team selection. He was also named the ITA Southwest Region Senior Player of the Year as he helped guide the Trojans to their 10th consecutive NCAA appearance. He wrapped up his USC career with a 28-12 singles record, with an 11-7 mark in dual-match play including a perfect 6-0 record in Pac-12 regular season matches. 


Tennis Season's Over

While USC women's tennis was knocked out in the second round, the men advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16 in Tulsa before dropping a dramatic dual to Georgia. The Trojans and Bulldogs are two of the sport's superpowers, and they engaged in a classic match with Georgia ultimately prevailing, 4-3.

"I think with matches like that you have this overwhelming sense of being a part of something that is bigger than you. It's such a great rivalry between UGA and us," said USC head coach Peter Smith. "To play that quality of a match for three and half hours, you really feel like it's an honor and a privilege to be a part of it. It hurts to lose, but it was just a great match."

Click here for the recap.

While USC men's tennis spent most of the season in the national Top 10, the 2016 campaign is almost a rebuilding year by the national championship standards of the program. The Trojans have plenty of help on the way as Smith and his staff reeled in the No. 2 recruiting class in the country, and USC loses only one senior, Max de Vroome (pictured).


Bring on the Bulldogs

The No. 10-seeded USC men's tennis team is one win away from its 10th straight trip to the NCAA Quarterfinals, and is aiming to buck the seeding and secure a berth with a win over No. 7 Georgia on Friday. Led by lone senior Max de Vroome, the 17-6 Trojans will take on the Bulldogs in the NCAA Round of 16 at 2 p.m. PT in Tulsa, Oklahoma. 

USC secured an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament this year after losing in the Pac-12 Tournament semifinals. Two members of the current roster, de Vroome and junior Nick Crystal, experienced the thrill of winning a national championship in 2014, and the duo is eager to lead the Trojans on a postseason run. De Vroome, ranked No. 23 in the nation, is finishing his Trojan career on a strong note posting 28 singles wins this season, and will appear in the NCAA Singles Tournament next week along with Crystal. 

For live updates from the Trojans' match on Friday, be sure to follow @USCMensTennis


Men's Tennis Feeling Sweet

No. 10 USC men's tennis held serve at home over the weekend to advance to the NCAA Sweet 16 in Tulsa by beating UNLV, 4-0, and Georgia Tech, 4-2. The Trojans were pushed hard by the Yellow Jackets, but ultimately overcame them thanks to superior depth in their singles lineup.

"Today was a very exciting college tennis match," said head coach Peter Smith about the second round victory. "Georgia Tech gave us all we could handle. Our fight from top to bottom is what our program is all about, and today that took us over the top."

Click here for the recap.

USC will play No. 7 Georgia in the next round on Friday (5 p.m. ET/2 p.m. PT). The Trojans and Bulldogs, who have combined to win seven of the last nine national championships, were scheduled to play earlier this season in Westwood, but the match was rained out.

Here are the John McGillen photos from the fierce fight with Georgia Tech:

Hoping to be the Perfect 10

USC men's tennis will enter the NCAA Tournament as the 10-seed, hosting the first two rounds at Marks Stadium. The Trojans will open against UNLV on Friday, May 13, and the winner will advance to play the winner of Georgia Tech vs. UC Santa Barbara on Saturday, May 14.

Click here for more.

Under the direction of head coach Peter Smith, USC has won five of the last seven NCAA titles and the program boasts 21 national championships, the most by any school. Last year, the Trojans were bounced in the quarterfinals.

USC went 15-6 this season, reaching the NCAA Tournament for the 10th consecutive year. The Trojans are led by senior Max de Vroome and junior Nick Crystal, both of whom earned spots in the NCAA Singles bracket.

The final four rounds of the NCAA Championship will be held in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Here is the complete bracket:


Semifinal Sayonara

Written by Caroline Deisley, USC blog contributor

After reaching the Pac-12 championship the last four seasons, the No. 8 USC men's tennis team failed to make it a fifth time, falling in the semifinals to No. 16 Cal, 4-1. The Trojans are now 15-6 on the season with a good chance of heading to the NCAA Tournament, looking for their 10th consecutive trip to the NCAA quarterfinals.

Click here for a full recap from the men's semifinal loss in the Pac-12 Tournament.

The Women of Troy were also competing this weekend in Ojai, California for individual Pac-12 titles. Both Gabby Smith and Giuliana Olmos lost in the semifinals for both singles and doubles. No. 4 Olmos lost to the tournament's top seed on the singles side, while the duo lost to the No. 22 pair from ASU, 6-2.

Click here for a complete recap of the Women of Troy's weekend.

Both the No. 8 USC men's tennis team and the No. 19 USC women's tennis team will now await their NCAA team championship announcement which will come on May 3.


Hunting for the Title

Written by Caroline Deisley, USC blog contributor

The No. 8 USC men's tennis team is gearing up for the Pac-12 Tournament this weekend in search of its third title. The Trojans will kick things off in the semifinal round as a No. 2 seed against Cal at 1:00 p.m. on Friday in Ojai, California.

Click her for a preview of the Pac-12 Tournament.

USC is led by No. 23 Max de Vroome, one of team's few returners, along with a slew of newcomers. The Trojans are aiming to repeat as Pac-12 Tournament Champions after defeating Stanford, 4-3, in last year's championship match. All games will be broadcasted on Pac-12 Network with the championship being played on Saturday at 5:00 p.m. Follow @USCMensTennis for live updates throughout the weekend.

Double Doubles


Ten points and a lot of pride are on the line this Sunday when No. 9 USC men's and No. 21 USC women's tennis host an unprecedented doubleheader against UCLA at Marks Stadium. Beginning at 12:30, both teams will play simultaneous doubles against the Bruins. At 1:30, the men's team will take on UCLA in singles with both women's teams facing each other in singles afterwards to conclude the day. 

All four teams are in contention for Pac-12 titles as they approach their final regular season dual match of the season this Saturday. UCLA men's tennis is 6-0 just ahead of the Trojan men who are 5-1. While both teams still have to play in the Pac-12 Championships next week, the victor of the game on Sunday will receive the No. 1 seed. Senior Max De Vroome, the 19th-best player in the country, leads the Trojans with 28 singles wins on the year. 

Led by the nation's 24th-best player, Giuliana Olmos, the Women of Troy are undefeated at 6-0 (three matches were cancelled by rain), while the UCLA women are 6-2 (with one match cancelled by rain). Sunday's game could determine the 2016 Pac-12 champions if the Trojans are able to beat the Bruins and Cal (7-0) loses to Stanford on Saturday. If Cal defeats Stanford, the Trojans and Bears will clash on Wednesday before the individual Pac-12 Championships begin to determine the 2016 Pac-12 team champions. 

Be sure to follow @USCMensTennis and @USCWomensTennis for in-match updates and more on Sunday! 

All-Century Steve

Written by Caroline Deisley, USC blog contributor

playerofthecentury-johnson.jpgThe Pac-12 named USC men's tennis legend Steve Johnson the conference's Player of the Century on Tuesday with five other Trojans earning spots on the sport's All-Century Team. Johnson led USC to four consecutive NCAA Team Championships (2009-12), while earning numerous individual honors over his time in college. He finished his USC tennis career on a 72-match singles win streak that led him to back-to-back NCAA singles titles in 2011 and 2012. The Trojan tennis legend is now competing on the professional circuit with a current No. 32 ATP world ranking.

Click here for a full release on the Trojans' nominated to the All-Century Team.

Joining Johnson on the roster for the Trojans are Alex Olmedo, Rafael Osuna, Dennis Ralston, Stan Smith and Bob Lutz, who are all in the ITA Men's Collegiate Tennis Hall of Fame. These five USC tennis stars also had successful professional careers with each of the five winning at least one of the four Grand Slams.

The Women of Troy were represented by current volunteer assistant coach Barbara Hallquist DeGroot, who was USC's first female scholarship athlete back in the 1970s. She led the Women of Troy to three consecutive team championships (1977-79) and back-to-back UTSA singles titles in 1976 and 1977.

Setting the Stage

No. 8 USC men's tennis took care of business on the road, defeating Utah, 4-1, and Arizona, 4-0, to put itself in position for a Sunday showdown at high Noon with UCLA at the newly renovated Marks Stadium. With a win, the Trojans can grab a piece of the conference title.

Click here for last weekend's recaps.

USC improved to 15-4 overall and 5-1 in Pac-12 play, a game behind No. 4 UCLA, which is undefeated in conference. Freshman Logan Smith (pictured) stepped up this week for the Trojans, winning both his singles matches without dropping a set.

The crosstown showdown on Sunday is the front end of a doubleheader as USC women's tennis will follow the men with singles play at 2:30 p.m. Both teams will play doubles simultaneously at Noon.


Singled Out

playeroftheweek-max2.jpgNo. 9 USC men's tennis dropped the doubles point in both its Pac-12 home matches last Friday and Saturday, but the Trojans roared back in singles competition to beat No. 16 Cal, 4-2, and then No. 36 Stanford, 6-1, to move to 3-1 in conference play and 13-4 overall.

Senior Max de Vroome is growing into his role as the lead dog on this USC team, winning all four singles matches in Pac-12 play. Against the Bears, he rallied back from a set down to clinch the dual match (5-7, 6-2, 6-1), and then when faced with a higher ranked Cardinal opponent, he made it look easy, winning 6-3, 7-5. For the second time this season, de Vroome was named Pac-12 Player of the Week.

The Trojans had been on the road for a month before finally returning to officially open the newly renovated Marks Stadium. The comfort of the home courts played into the results, according to head coach Peter Smith.

It was great to open the facility with the energy we had today," Smith said. "The energy from our crowd transferred to our team.  It was just a gritty performance from the boys."

Unfortunately, the home stay is short lived for the Trojans who hit the road again this week to face Utah and Colorado. Be sure to mark your calendars for USC's home finale on April 17 against rival UCLA.

Here are John McGillen's photos from the win over Cal:

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