Column: Catching up with Prescott's Taylor Johnson, her journey to go pro
It seems like only yesterday that Prescott's very own Taylor Johnson was going to Abia Judd Elementary School, playing tennis at the Prescott Racquet Club and at Prescott High School and just catching the bug of this fun game.
After taking a few years of tennis tutoring under our local USPTA tennis professional Sterling Fetty, who is the founder of the Advantage Tennis Academy, Taylor and her parents, Randy and Trynna, made a decision to give their daughter a shot at becoming a future tennis star and career.
Prescott is a tough place to stay and get the type of competition and training a player needs on a day-to-day basis, thus they moved first to Scottsdale and worked with David Critchley, founder and coach of The Players Academy, while also working with Billie Jean King - who took a liking to Taylor. She is now currently based in Los Angeles and is working with tennis professionals Patrick Nagle and Marc Lucero, as well as the famous retired tennis player and former doubles partner of BJK, Rosie Casals.
If I were a betting man I wouldn't hesitate to say that if anyone has a shot at doing well in the game of professional tennis in the future, it'll be Taylor. She has two very supportive parents, a great attitude, work ethic, personality, and her game is going in the direction it needs to with the right opportunities.
We caught up with Taylor to see just how she's doing over in Los Angeles.
Q. How are you?
Taylor: I'm doing great! Life is good!
Q. What are you doing for schooling at this point in your tennis career as well as day-to-day practices?
Taylor: I am doing Connections Academy, an online schooling program that takes about 4-5 hours a day. Getting good grades is really important to me.
Q. Tell us about your tournament schedule, current rankings and what's up this next year for Taylor Johnson.
Taylor: Well, I play one or two tournaments a month, just depending on what tournaments there are in that month. SoCal tournaments have so many people in them that the tournament takes up two weekends. I have two more tournaments this year, one National Open in Irvine, and Winter Nationals in Tucson. Come watch me! I just turned 13 in August, so I am playing all 14s and 16s and I'm ranked in the top 10 in SoCal and top 40 in the nation. I'm also number 5 in the country for my birth year.
Q. What coaches are you working with and on what parts of your game?
Taylor: I am currently working with Patrick Nagle and Marc Lucero. They are very good coaches and help me advance mentally, technically and strategically.
Q: As you reach your teenage years, what are your current goals and long range ones?
Taylor: I obviously want to become a professional tennis player. It's my one dream and I will do everything that I possibly can to make it a reality. Right now I have a goal for next year, to go and play on the USA team in junior Fed Cup in the Czech Republic. Other than that, I strive to be the best I can be.
Q. How are your mom and dad?
Taylor: They're great. I love them so much. They're such big supporters in everything I do.
Q. Do you like California over the Prescott/Phoenix area? What's better and what's not?
Taylor: I do like California better, but I do miss my friends and family in Arizona. I love how there is so much competition in SoCal. I mean there are (seems like) millions of players. Los Angeles just has this vibe, a positive vibe of everyone trying to be great in every way. I also love the beach! You'll know where to find me when I have a day off! I love to surf and body board. I love taking my GoPro camera out in the water and taking some shots.
Q. What's a normal day for Taylor?
Taylor: I get to practice from 9-11, then go to fitness for one hour, 11-12, then lunch from 12-1, then another hit from 1-3, and then a cool-down in the gym from 3-3:30.
Q. Any words of wisdom for the middle school and high school tennis players in the Prescott area?
Taylor: Just keep working hard. Keep positive and keep believing. Everything is achievable.
Q. Are you sponsored by any tennis companies at this time?
Taylor: Yes, I am fully sponsored by Wilson Racquets. They treat me so well and I am so thankful for them.
Q. Do you still stay in contact with Billie Jean King, and how has she helped you along?
Taylor: Yes, we are very close. I went to her (70th) birthday party last month at Caesars Palace. It was a blast ... met a lot of great tennis players like Andre Agassi, Owen Davidson and Steffi Graf. Billie has helped me so much, on and off the court. She is such a great person, and such a great mentor. One of her friends, Rosie Casals, has been working a lot with me lately. She has also taken me under her wing and is a great person and player!
Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Professional with over 40 years in the racquet and fitness industry. He can be reached at 928-642-6775 or firstname.lastname@example.org.