Four players turn back clock, fight to join final pairing
When the Elam Classic Tennis Tournament got down to its final four singles players Saturday at Canyon View Park, there was no shortage of history between those fighting for a spot in the final.
On the top half of the bracket, three-time defending champion Cory Ross was taking on Luke Shields, who he defeated in last year’s championship match.
On the bottom half, Grand Junction locals Clancy Shields and Richard Johnson met, bringing back memories of when the two players battled on a regular basis as teenagers.
In both cases, history didn’t change much, as Ross defeated Luke Shields 6-2, 6-4 for the third straight year and Clancy Shields remained undefeated lifetime against Johnson with a 7-5, 6-1 victory.
Ross had an easier time with Luke Shields this year after being pushed to three sets in last year’s final by the Boise State University alum.
“Luke isn’t a guy who is going to go out there and make a lot of errors,” Ross said. “But I did noticed he made more errors today than he usually does. It seemed like he was struggling a bit.”
Both semifinal matches were affected by heavy wind gusts, which Ross said forced him to play more cautious.
“The wind was a factor,” Ross said. “I felt I could get him to make the error, so I played with a lot of safety on my shots.”
Ross advanced to the semifinals earlier Saturday by defeating Dennis Fulgenzi 6-1, 6-0.
Johnson and Clancy Shields haven’t played in eight years, but according to Shields, the pair met more than 10 times growing up in Grand Junction. Johnson went on to lead Pepperdine University to an NCAA Championship and Shields had a good career at Boise as a singles and doubles player.
Both out of college now, the two big hitters played a competitive 7-5 first set before Shields jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the second set. The lead was too much for Johnson to overcome.
The conditions played havoc with the match when Shields’ lob went over the net, but got caught in the wind and came back onto Shields’ half of the court.
“We have always had a rivalry living in the same town,” Shields said. “I feel bad because I was really looking forward to having a good match with Richard. These conditions made it kind of a bummer, because I haven’t played him in a long time and we both wanted a good
Ross and Shields should make for an interesting final as the two players are seeing each other for the third time. Ross defeated Shields at last year’s Elam and Shields returned the favor by defeating Ross at the Denver City Open.
Both players have a great deal of respect for each other.
“Clancy is a big strong guy who is physically imposing, but he also has a great tennis IQ,” Ross said. “He has had a full year of high level college tennis, and I’ve had a whole year of high level tennis coaching. I’ll have my work cut out for me if I am going to beat him.”
The championship match is at 9:30 a.m. at Canyon View Park.
On the doubles side of the bracket, both Ross and the Shields brothers advanced into today’s semifinals. After receiving first-round byes, the Shields defeated Calix Van Lier and Ryan Walker, 6-1, 6-1. They face Trent Broach and Rob Simpson in the semifinal.
Ross teamed with Peter Richman to defeat Jordan Bridge and Ryan McNamara 6-3, 6-3.
They face Marius Adamski and Warren Elgort, who advanced to the semifinals by defeating Kevin Nydam and David Smith 6-2, 6-0 in the first round and then taking down Damon Gillette and Matt Hegelund, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.
The semifinals begin at 11:30 a.m. with the finals wrapping up the Elam Classic at 1:30 p.m.