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USC alum Steve Johnson sustains upward mobility at Indian Wells tennis

Former USC player Steve Johnson, ranked 44th, easily wins first-round match at Paribas Open in Indian Wells

As a college player at USC, Steve Johnson won the NCAA singles title twice and led the way as the Trojans dominated the sport during his stay, and beyond.

USC won the NCAA men's tennis title in all four of Johnson's years, from 2009 to 2012, and also in 2014, two years after Johnson graduated — all under Coach Peter Smith.

For Johnson, things have been more difficult as a pro.

Friday, in the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, a more-seasoned Johnson continued to show the kind of progress that U.S. tennis fans have been expecting from him for several years now.

Johnson, ranked No. 44 in the world — he got as high as No. 38 in November — handled Spanish veteran Marcel Granollers, once as high as No. 19, in a first-round match, 6-2, 6-3.

"Everything has just kind of come together," Johnson said.

Sam Querrey is the second-highest-ranked U.S. player at No. 43, behind No. 20 John Isner. But he lost, the primary U.S. setback of the day. Querrey, who said he hasn't been playing well lately, lost to Sergiy Stakhovsky of Ukraine, 2-6, 6-4, 6-2.

Donald Young, No. 47 and fresh from landing a spot on the U.S. Davis Cup team, cruised past Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain, 6-3, 6-4, and Jack Sock, No. 58, rallied after falling behind 5-1 in the first set and won, 6-7 (4), 6-2, 7-5, over Yen-Hsun Lu of Taiwan on a stifling hot day. Sock, who had to skip the Australian Open because of a pelvic injury, was impressive in his shotmaking and fight.

Sloane Stephens, the 42nd-ranked woman, recovered nicely after giving up a lead in the first set and defeated 13th-seeded Angelique Kerber of Germany, 7-6 (6), 6-2.

Another U.S. entry, Alison Riske, lost to seventh-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, 6-3, 6-1. Romanian Simona Halep, seeded third, had a tougher time against Russian qualifier Daria Gavrilova, eventually winning, 2-6, 6-1, 6-2.

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