Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Johnston Hopes Improved Serve Will Net 1st Win vs. Clark

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Johnston Hopes Improved Serve Will Net 1st Win vs. Clark

Article excerpt

He looks like a refugee from the '60s, with his hair pulled back in a long ponytail and his T-shirts paying tribute to rock legends such as Jimi Hendrix or, more currently, his favorite band, Voivod.

But Michael Johnston has a game for the '90s, anchored by probably the biggest serve in town. He can dazzle you with miles per hour, or ace you with twist serves that kick higher and wider than you can reach.

He is locked and loaded, ready to fire on his tennis opposite, feisty Toby Clark, in the final of the Dwight Davis Championships at 11 a.m. today at the Dwight Davis Center.

Johnston, at 6 feet 4, will be the puncher; Clark, at 5-4, the counterpuncher and, as the city's top player, the favorite. Johnston, the 1991 Martin J. Kennedy champion, has yet to beat Clark but is hoping an improved serve will make the difference this time.

"In the past, by the end of the tournament my arm has been shot," he said. "And as my arm goes, my serve goes and my confidence goes."

At age 26, Johnston says his serve is better than ever - when his arm is sound.

"My arm has given me problems since I was 14," he said. "I've always had a big serve, and when you serve hard all the time, something's got to take the brunt of it.

"Playing doubles this week has been a grind. My arm's been hurting the last three or four matches, but once the adrenalin starts flowing, it subdues a little bit. And having a day off (between the semifinals and final) will help."

Weight training, Johnston says, has made his serve more of a weapon, and he will try to kick serves up high to Clark's two-hand backhand. But as good as Clark's service return is, Johnston has even more respect for the rest of his game.

"It would be tough to find someone with more grit and heart than him," Johnston said. "He makes you make a lot of shots."

For his part, Johnston never has been able to put the whole package together. He came out of Clayton High having won an unprecedented four consecutive Class 1A-3A singles championships, along with National Honor Society credentials academically.

At Miami University of Ohio, he had a victory over one of the nation's former elite juniors, Notre Dame's Dave DeLucia. …

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