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The Streak

Tennis fans might know Steve Johnson as the United States' bronze-medal winning doubles player at the Rio Olympics, but the Orange County native made a name for himself at USC long before that.

While at USC, "Stevie" pulled off one of the most incredible accomplishments in the history of college tennis: a 72-match win streak that included two NCAA Singles Championships.

His fortitude helped lift the Trojans to four straight national titles as well (2009-10-11-12).

Check out The Streak, a short film by FloTennis detailing Johnson's legendary accomplishment.

Perfect 10

pac-12player-smith (1).jpg
After winning 10 straight singles matches and helping USC men's tennis go 4-1 in five matches this week, USC freshman Riley Smith has been named the Pac-12 Player of the Week.

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Against Lehigh, he and fellow freshman Brandon Holt clinched the doubles point in what would become a 7-0 win. He didn't play singles in that match, but in the second match of a double header that day, Smith made quick work of his Texas Tech singles opponent. His win proved crucial in USC's 4-3 win over the Red Raiders.

In USC's next three matches (vs. USF, Oklahoma and Baylor in the BNP Paribas Collegiate Challenge at Indian Wells), Smith went undefeated in both doubles and singles.

His efforts against the Bulls and the Sooners helped USC tally a 4-0 and 4-1 win, respectively, to advance to the final of the BNP Paribas Collegiate Challenge. In the championship match, the Trojans faced the Baylor Bears, whom they had defeated, 4-2, earlier this season.

But despite Smith helping USC win points in doubles and singles, the No. 7 Trojans fell, 4-3, to the No. 6 Bears.

Smith and the Trojans are having a strong year. While the team is 17-3 overall in dual match play, Smith himself is 14-1, with most of his individual wins coming at the No. 6 slot. He and Holt are 12-1 and ranked No. 19 in the nation together.

The Trojans get an extended break before hitting the court again vs. Oregon on March 31.

Lucky Number Seven

Yesterday, USC men's tennis won both ends of a double header to extend its current winning streak to seven matches.

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The seventh-ranked Trojans kicked off the day by besting the Lehigh Mountain Hawks, 7-0. After winning the doubles point, all six of USC's singles players defeated their opponents in straight sets.

Later in the day, the Trojans endured a much tougher test against Texas Tech. Despite dropping the doubles point on Court 1 to a Splash Brothers duo of sorts (TTU's Connor Curry and Bjorn Thomson), the Trojans rallied on Courts 2 and 3 to head into singles play with a slight lead.

USC survived losses on the top three singles courts to mount a 4-3 victory over the Red Raiders, with Jack Jaede (pictured) serving as the clincher on Court 4.

USC's current seven-match win streak is its longest since winning nine in a row to open up the 2015 season. The Trojans go for eight on Friday at the BNP Paribas Collegiate Challenge at Indian Wells.


Sweet Revenge

USC men's tennis avenged a loss to UCLA last month with a resounding win over the Bruins yesterday.

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On Feb. 17, the Trojans fell to UCLA, 4-3, at the ITA National Team Indoor Championships. When No. 14 USC hosted its crosstown rival at Marks Stadium yesterday, though, it faced no such difficulty.

Just like in the first match, USC clinched the doubles point to take a one-point lead into singles play. But this time, the Trojans flipped the script and racked up three wins in singles to earn a 4-1 victory over 13th-ranked UCLA.

USC's Thibault Forget got revenge against UCLA's Austin Rapp, who beat him at the National Indoors tournament, to push USC's lead to 2-0 on the day. On Court 1, Brandon Holt followed suit with a straight-sets victory over Martin Redlicki, who got the better of him last month. The Trojans dropped a point on Court 2, but USC's Logan Smith clinched the match on Court 3.

Though the win doesn't count towards conference play, it pushed the Trojans to 13-2 on the season as they head into next Tuesday's double-header with Lehigh and Texas Tech.

Looking for Revenge

Tomorrow, USC men's tennis hosts UCLA, aiming to avenge its 4-3 loss to the Bruins last month.

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The Trojans are 12-2 on the season and ranked No. 14 in the nation, while the Bruins are ranked No. 13 at 8-3.

In their last meeting, USC won the doubles point, but UCLA evened things up and pushed it to 3-3. The match came down to Court 1, where UCLA's Martin Redlicki upset USC's Brandon Holt to clinch the victory. Since that loss, Holt has gone 3-1 in dual match play and the Trojans have won four straight.

USC's two most recent matches were tight 4-3 victories, in which the Trojans dropped the doubles point and had to claw their way back ahead. Prior to those two matches, USC had won every doubles point all season, and hopes to get back on track tomorrow.

Tomorrow's match kicks off at 3 p.m. at USC's Marks Stadium. Admission is free and open to the public, and the first 150 fans receive a free grilled cheese sandwich from the Grilled Cheese Truck.

Holt On

pac-12player-holt.jpgFreshman Brandon Holt of USC men's tennis was named the Pac-12 Player of the Week yesterday, for the first time in his young career.

Click here for the full release!

Holt, who was born in Torrance and went to high school at Palos Verdes, is USC's highest-ranked player at No. 27 in the nation. He's backed that ranking up with a 26-5 record as a Trojan (9-2 in dual match play). With partner Riley Smith, he ranks No. 29 in doubles as well, and leads the team in singles and doubles victories.

Playing at the No. 1 spot, Holt won both his singles matches in USC's tight victories last week. He topped No. 57 Ben Donovan of Cal Poly and upset No. 12 Tom Fawcett of Stanford in straight sets, in addition to racking up one win in doubles.

This certainly won't be the last conference award for Holt, who has tennis in his blood. His mother, Tracy (Austin) Holt, is a former world No. 1 and two-time U.S. Open champion, and his aunt and two uncles also played professional tennis. With forces like that guiding him, Holt is sure to become a staple of Trojan tennis.

To stay in the loop on Holt and the Trojans, follow USC men's tennis on Twitter and Instagram!

Four to Three Victory

USC men's tennis earned two hard-fought victories last week, topping Cal Poly and Stanford at home.

The No. 12 Trojans dropped the doubles point for the first time all season against No. 33 Cal Poly. But USC rung up four victories in singles (from Riley Smith, Rob Bellamy, No. 27 Brandon Holt and Jack Jaede) to clinch a 4-3 win over the Mustangs.

USC had to dig its way out of a 1-point deficit against No. 35 Stanford as well. After dropping the doubles point, Jaede evened things up with his 12th straight singles win. Holt, Smith, and No. 42 Logan Smith followed suit to help the Trojans lock up another 4-3 win.

The Trojans are now 12-2 on the season and undefeated at home. That unblemished home record will be put to the test when UCLA comes to Marks Stadium on March 9. The Trojans dropped a 4-3 match to the Bruins earlier this month on a neutral court, and are out for revenge. Next Thursday's match begins at 3 p.m.

Play Fair, Not Foul

USC men's tennis aims to improve upon its 10-2 record with two home matches this week.

Tomorrow, the No. 12 Trojans take on No. 33 Cal Poly, and on Friday, they face No. 35 Stanford in a nonconference match.

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USC is fresh off a trip to the ITA National Team Indoors, where the team bounced back from a first round loss to win two consolation matches.

The Trojans hope to keep the ball rolling against the Mustangs, who are 5-2 on the season. USC has never lost to Cal Poly in five all-time matchups, but the Mustangs are enjoying their highest ITA ranking since the team moved to Division I competition.

The match against Cal Poly will feature PlaySight technology as part of the PlayFair initiative, which aims to improve accuracy and cut down on cheating on line calls by providing multiple camera angles of the court.

USC is one of just a handful of schools implementing the technology this season.

Tomorrow's match against Cal Poly kicks off at 2 p.m., while Friday's match vs. Stanford begins at 3 p.m. at USC's Marks Stadium.

10 (O'Clock) and 2 (O'Clock)

usc-mens-tennis-etsu-012817-mcgillen-3716.jpgAfter a narrow loss in the opening round, USC men's tennis bounced back to win its last two matches of the ITA National Team Indoors Tournament this weekend and move to 10-2 on the season.

On Friday, the No. 9 Trojans squared up with No. 7 UCLA. USC took the doubles point, but the Bruins evened it up quickly in singles play. With the score knotted at 3 all, the match came down the Singles Court 1, where USC freshman Brandon Holt battled UCLA junior Martin Redlicki. Holt dropped the first set in a tiebreaker before winning the second, 6-3. The Bruin eked out a 6-4 victory in the third set to clinch a 4-3 win for UCLA.

USC had no time to sulk, as it jumped into consolation play the next day. The Trojans came out strong to sweep Utah State, 5-0.

The Trojans kept the winning spirit alive in their next match against No. 13 Baylor. After coming from behind to take the doubles point, USC dialed up three singles victories to earn a 4-2 win.

Despite the loss this weekend, USC has won the doubles point in all 12 matches and is also a perfect 7-0 at home. The Trojans look to extend that record with five upcoming matches at Marks Stadium. The homestand begins this Thursday against Cal Poly and continues Friday against Stanford.

No Double Trouble

USC men's tennis won both matches of a double-header as a last brush-up before heading off to the ITA National Team Indoor Championships next week.

Despite the matches being moved up a day to protect from poor weather conditions, USC cruised to two 6-1 victories.

The No. 9 Trojans kicked off the day by hosting San Francisco. USC took the doubles point with wins at the 2 and 3 spots, then rattled off three straight wins in singles to clinch the match. Singles victories from No. 36 Logan Smith, No. 119 Jack Jaede, Riley Smith, Laurens Verboven and Jens Sweaney carried USC to a 6-1 win.

After a quick break, the Trojans were back at it, this time against UC Davis. In similar fashion, the Trojans rung up a doubles point and three straight singles victories to clinch their eighth win of the season. Brandon Holt, USC's highest ranked player at No. 13, was the deciding player in USC's 6-1 victory.

Click here for the full recap!

Next up for USC is a trip to Virginia for the ITA National Indoors. Last year, the Trojans fell in the quarterfinals of the tournament after making it to the championship in each of the four years before that.


Virginia is for Trojans

USC men's tennis punched its ticket to next month's ITA National Team Indoor Championship in Virginia by winning the ITA Kick-Off Weekend tournament this weekend.

In the first round of this weekend's tournament, the No. 8 Trojans shut out visiting East Tennessee State, 4-0. USC used a win in doubles and singles victories by Jack Jaede, Riley Smith and Nick Crystal to secure a spot in the championship match.

In the championship, USC faced USD, which beat Virginia Tech, 4-2, in the first round. The Trojans got off to a hot start again, easily winning the doubles point. They carried their momentum into singles play to win five of six matches for a 6-1 victory. Jaede, Smith and Crystal were all victorious once again, with Smith serving as the clincher.

The 5-0 Trojans are now guaranteed a spot in the ITA National Team Indoor Championship in Charlottesville, VA from Feb. 17-20. Before that, though, they head to Gainesville, FL to participate in the Pac-12/SEC Showdown from Feb. 4-5.

Kick It Off

USC men's tennis looks to build on its early success this season when it hosts USD, Virginia Tech and East Tennessee State at ITA Kick-Off Weekend.

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It's the ninth year in a row that the Trojans, ranked No. 8 in the nation in the latest ITA poll, were selected as one of 16 hosts of ITA Kick-Off Weekend. USD and VaTech face off first, before USC plays East Tennessee State at 1 p.m. on Saturday.

The winners of each match will meet in the title game on Sunday at 1 p.m. The winner of that match punches its ticket to the ITA National Team Indoor Championships, which take place in Virginia next month.

USC got off to a hot start this season, winning its first three matches. Four Trojans are ranked in singles (No. 20 Brandon Holt, No. 28 Logan Smith, No. 88 Nick Crystal and No. 114 Thibault Forget). Smith and Forget comprise the nation's No. 35 doubles team, while Smith and senior Rob Bellamy are ranked No. 49.

Follow @USCMensTennis on Twitter for updates this weekend!


Off to the Races

After months of preseason action, USC men's tennis finally kicked off its dual match competition with three wins this week.

The No. 10 Trojans cruised to a 6-1 win over UC Santa Cruz, a 7-0 win over UC Riverside and a 6-1 win over UC Irvine.

USC got off to a hot start in all three matches by winning the doubles point. Head coach Peter Smith started three different players at the No. 1 spot in singles, though. Junior Thibault Forget, ranked No. 114 in the nation, earned the nod against UCSC. Against UCR, freshman Brandon Holt, ranked No. 20, started at the top spot, while No. 28 Logan Smith did so against UCI.

With a few wins under their belt, the Trojans now set up for ITA Kick-Off Weekend at Marks Stadium.

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. 


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