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2:15 AM Mon, Sept. 24th

Howard: The next chapter for junior tennis star Taylor Johnson

Column: My Point

The following is an interview with Taylor Johnson, who learned to play the game of tennis here in Prescott as a child at the Prescott Racquet Club. Now 17, she’s gone from humble beginnings to being ranked as one of the top juniors in the world in the 18 and under women’s ITF. The question up until recently was to turn professional or to play top college tennis. Recovering from a shoulder injury the past 6 months made it even more of a question as she accelerated and is soon to finish her high school studies.

Read the answers about her decision and how it was reached:

Q: If you hadn’t injured your shoulder, do you think you would have turned pro instead playing college tennis?

I am honestly not sure if I would’ve turned pro or not if I would’ve been healthy. It would’ve all been based on my progress and how I was doing playing at the higher level. I still believe I would go to college before turning professional. As I am getting older I realize how invaluable college is, and to go for free is a hard opportunity to pass up. It is going to be a great time for me to develop my game even more and mature that much more as a person and player.

Q: You spent a weekend with BJK and llana Kloss - what advice did they give in helping you with your decision?

I did spend a weekend with Billie and Ilana in New York before I made my decision. We talked about so much more than just college. They both agreed that college is a great idea for me to continue and to develop, and were very supportive with my decisions. Both of them could tell that I just loved UCLA and made it even more clear for me that it was the right place for me.

Q. What colleges did you visit and how was the process?

UCLA was the third college I visited, I first visited Pepperdine and USC. The first conversations you typically have with coaches are on the phone, then they usually invite you to campus to take a tour. I liked certain things from each college, but once I visited UCLA, I felt like everything was perfect for me. I first went on the unofficial visit by myself, toured the courts, the athletic facilities, the classrooms, the food courts, the dorms, then finished with a meeting with the coaches. I just really liked them and their coaching style. Stella (Sampras Webster) and Rance (Brown) have been working together for over 20 years, so obviously they work well together.

I came home super happy, even my parents were surprised. I had been kind of down in the dumps because of how long my injury was taking to heal, so it gave me something to be excited about and look forward to. My parents ended up having a meeting with the coaches as well and they liked it a lot too. They offered me a full scholarship.

Q. Why UCLA over the other universities?

I liked certain things from each of the different schools like Pepperdine , USC, Stanford, and Cal but overall I loved everything about UCLA and fit me best as a person and player.

Q. Tell us about your shoulder injury and finally starting to play again.

Yes! I am now just starting to play practice matches. It has been a long road but I am so excited that I am so close to overcoming this injury! I had bad bicep tendinitis, rotator cuff tendinitis, two impingements in my shoulder, and maybe even a small tear in the back. I had a beat-up shoulder but I am so happy that I am almost completely healed!

Q. Are your goals the same now as before the injury?

These 6 months have helped me mature and have also made me realize how lucky I am to be able to play tennis. Sometimes you take things for granted if you are just used to doing them day in and day out. Going to college is a part of my big picture goal. I hope to go to college for about 2-3 years then turn professional. I believe going to college will help me deal with adversity and tough situations on tour better. I don’t just want to be known as a tennis player. I want to be educated and be able to speak my voice when I am playing professional tennis, and I think college is the perfect opportunity for me to learn and grow.

Q. Is there any worry about this injury reoccurring?

Of course people worry about injuries, but UCLA’s coaches and team have confidence and believe in me that I will come back even stronger.

Q. What will your schedule be like on your return to tournament play?

I am mostly going to be playing pro circuit events until college. I want to get my professional ranking up before college so during the fall and summers I will be able to play more professional tournaments and keep building my ranking. My injury was caused by overuse. During last summer I played on a hurt shoulder and it caused the pain to get a lot worse. I just wanted to keep playing because I had amazing opportunities like playing the French Open, Wimbledon, US Open, but then I pushed it too much. That is going to be a big part of this year for me is to keep my schedule spread out and definitely to not overdue anything.

Q. What are your new short and long-range goals now?

I am going to be attending UCLA in January of 2019. I am graduating a semester early in high school to start college early. It is going to be a big adjustment, going from living at home, doing online school and training at the USTA for the last 7 years straight to college. I am going to have to be very prepared because I am jumping into college during team season (where we do the most traveling) but I am so happy I will have great resources around me to help me adjust and adapt to the college life.

Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Professional with over 45 years in the racquet and fitness industry. He can be reached at 928-642-6775 or choward4541@gmail.com.