Johnson playing in Elam for first time in years

Richard Johnson watches his backhand return over the net as he plays in the second round of the Elam Tennis tournament at Canyon View Park.

Richard Johnson has played in tennis tournaments all over the world.

The 2004 Fruita Monument High School graduate played four years of tennis at Pepperdine University before spending the past year traveling to Mexico, Norway, Spain, Japan and India, playing in the USTA Futures Circuit.

Johnson came home this week to play in the Elam Classic at Canyon View Park for the first time since he was 14.

“There was always something else going on,” Johnson said, “whether that was a junior sectional tournament, or I was injured from the college season, or last summer I was playing a tournament in Norway.”

The two-time high school No. 1 singles state champion had a good first day Friday, defeating Kurt Zielbauer 6-2, 6-1 and Stephen Jacobs 6-4, 6-4.

In today’s quarterfinals, Johnson plays Peter Richman of Denver.

After his world tour, Johnson said he’s excited to be playing in the hometown Elam.

“I have always wanted to play, but it was never good timing,” Johnson said. “The prize money is great, and I am hoping to play well and get a little confidence back.”

Johnson will team with his older brother, David, today to play doubles against Joe Tustin and Steve Williams.

Johnson said the Elam provides him with a chance to not only play with his brother, but also play in front of family and friends.

“My family hasn’t been able to watch me play too much,” Johnson said. “So it’s really nice to be here playing this year.”

Johnson isn’t the only former Grand Valley state champion making an appearance in the Elam.

Jordan Bridge, the 2006 No. 1 singles state champion from Grand Junction High School, is playing in his first Elam Classic. Bridge moved to Irvine, Calif., midway though his junior year when his father, Mitch, became a co-owner of the Advantage Tennis Academy.

Jordan is working in Vail this summer and decided to enter the tournament as an amateur.

“I’ve watched this tournament for years,” said Bridge, who spent 11 years in Grand Junction. “I thought I would come back down and see what everyone is doing and what the competition’s like.”

Bridge did well, defeating Akim Malik of Denver 6-2, 6-1 in the first round. In his afternoon match, Bridge defeated No. 8 seed Warren Elgort of New York, 6-2, 6-2.

Bridge has grown a lot since winning a state title as a sophomore, and said living and playing in Southern California helped him develop as a player.

“Last January when I left, I was in a different place tennis-wise,” Bridge said. “ SoCal is such a hot spot for junior tennis that I felt like I have improved a lot and gotten a lot better.”

Bridge plays second-seeded Clancy Shields at 8:30 this morning.

Three-time defending champion Cory Ross defeated Isaac Brown 6-0, 6-0 and then defeated David Johnson 6-1, 6-0. Ross is attempting to become the first player to ever win four consecutive Elam Classic titles.

“I always base my game on how I’m feeling physically,” Ross said. “Right now I’m feeling better than ever.”


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