Sneaker Report caught up with Steve Johnson prior to his Wimbledon debut this year to discuss his training regimen, tournament expectations, and of course, his sneaker choices on and off the court.
Transitioning from college to the professional circuit, how has your daily training changed? What are some of the fitness challenges?
In college I had to balance school and tennis so I did not have as much time to dedicate to my training. Now in the pros, tennis is my main focus so I've made an effort to train harder so I can be successful and compete with some of the best at this level. Fitness is a huge part of my training so that I can be in shape to last five sets in matches.
How has training for tennis changed since you began playing?
From the time I hit my first ball with my dad, I've enjoyed practicing. I think now it's a matter of honing my skills so that I am able to produce consistent results and continue to rise up the ranks.
Asics, obviously, has a great tradition in running. Do you run? What is your shoe of choice?
I'll go for a light run before matches to warm up my muscles and also run a little bit after matches to cool down. When I do fitness, I mix up long distance runs to build my stamina with running some sprints to help my agility on court. I am currently wearing the GEL-Lyte33™.
You've been wearing the GEL-Solution Speed on court. Tell us about the shoe.
The GEL-Solution Speed has been great. It's a light, quick shoe with great support for when I change directions. Grinding on the court everyday I used to go through shoes pretty quickly, but now I have the GEL-Solution Speed which is so comfortable and durable.
What are the most important elements of a shoe for you?
I tend to slide around the court a lot when I play, even if it’s on a hard court, so I need a shoe that provides a lot of support and cushion so that I am able to change directions smoothly without worrying that my foot might slip out.
How does surface affect the way you play? What do you need your shoes to do for you on clay, grass, and hard court?
Depending on the surface, play can be quicker or shorter so I will make adjustments to my game based on the surface and the opponent I'm playing. On the different surfaces, I need my shoe to have the right traction and support so that I feel comfortable doing whatever I choose, knowing the shoe will respond.
Does surface change the way you might train for a specific tournament?
Yes, I will make minor adjustments to my game and the way I train depending on if I will be playing on a faster or slower surface.
Asics' commitment to tennis is on the rise. The team includes former US Open winner Sam Stosur and the always entertaining Gael Monfils. What is your interaction with the others, and how are you working with the brand collectively to improve the collections?
I definitely respect both Sam and Gael's big accomplishments on the tour and hope to mirror some of their accomplishments in the future. We have a great group of players representing the Asic's brand, voicing what we're looking for in the product to help us perform at our best. Hopefully our input will continue to improve the collections.
Wimbledon is on the horizon and Pete Sampras is your hero. What have you learned from watching Pete on grass?
Growing up watching Pete, I also admired how he handled his serve on the grass. I think the biggest thing I learned from him was to identify and stick to my serving targets in pressure situations in order to put myself in the best position to hold my serve.