We’re guaranteed a first time champion Sunday as Steve Johnson and Thomaz Bellucci battle it out for the 2017 Fayez Sarofim & Co. U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championship title.
Johnson, the No.4 seed at the 2017 event, notched his career-best result on clay by reaching the final here in Houston. The 27-year-old California native ousted 2015 champion Jack Sock 4-6 6-4 6-3 to reach his third ATP World Tour singles final, and first on American soil.
For the ninth time in the 10 years since the tournament moved to River Oaks, an American will be contesting the final.
Johnson will face a tough test Sunday at River Oaks, as he takes on an opponent who has a proven track record on clay, “He’s a clay court guy, he knows how to play on the stuff. He's had a great week so far.”
Bellucci is through to his eighth ATP final, seventh on clay, after ending the Cinderella run of American wild card Ernesto Escobedo 5-7 6-4 6-2.
The Brazilian has won four titles on the surface, the most recent coming in Geneva in 2015.
Bellucci will have to beat a fourth American to win the title, having already defeated Frances Tiafoe, Sam Querrey and Ernesto Escobedo to reach the final. The last person to beat as many as four Americans to win the US Clay title was Jaime Yzaga who defeated Chris Garner, Jimmy Brown, Michael Chang, MaliVai Washington and Jimmy Arias in 1991 at Charlotte.
Bellucci has met his American foe once before, at the 2016 Australian Open. Johnson clinched the win 6-3 6-2 6-2.
Both men arrived late into Houston following Davis Cup ties last weekend. Bellucci was 2-0 in singles as Brazil won 5-0 at Ecuador in an Americas tie, while Johnson was part of the winning US doubles team in a 3-1 defeat at Australia in Brisbane.
The singles final will begin at 2pm at River Oaks Country Club, followed by the doubles final featuring wild cards Dustin Brown and Frances Tiafoe versus No.4 seeds Julio Peralta and Horacio Zeballos.