It was hard for American Steve Johnson to control his emotions on the court on Wednesday at the French Open. The 25th-seed is mourning the death of his father, Steve Johnson Sr., and after saving two set points in the fourth-settiebreak to beat BornaCoric6-2, 7-6(8), 3-6, 7-6(6), Johnson fell to his knees.
"I just knew he was looking down on me on that last point and gave me the strength to finish it off," a tearful Johnson said of his late father, a well-regarded tennis coach from Southern California, who unexpectedly passed away in his sleep at the age of 58 just three weeks ago.
"Physically, I'm OK, emotionally, I'm a mess," Johnson said. "He always wanted me to be a fighter and a competitor so that's what I'm going to do, day in and day out. That's the only thing I can do."
In the first round on Monday, Johnson won an emotional five-set match against Yuichi Sugita, and he'll now move into the third round to face No. 6-seed Dominic Thiem.
When Johnson received the news of his father's death, he pulled out of the ATP Masters 1000 tournament in Rome, but then played in Geneva last week ahead of Roland Garros, where he met with his mother, sister and fiancée, who were planning the trip to Paris "for years now," following his sister's graduation from college.
"My mom and sister and my fiancée are here, so it makes it easier and harder all at the same time to see them," Johnson said. "Just the pain and just trying to get through it. You know, it's just hard."