All-Area: Nash Central's Johnson is the Telegram's tennis player of the year
By PATRICK MASON
Tuesday, July 23, 2019
Life makes sense for Cameron Johnson when he’s on a tennis court.
During a recent interview and photo-shoot session, the recently-graduated Nash Central athlete popped open a couple brand new sleeves of fuzzy tennis balls then built a pyramid out of them. The finished product was stacked three high and it took him less than a minute.
And it turns out that aside from knowing a few neat tricks, he’s pretty talented with a racket in his hands, too.
Johnson is the Telegram’s boys’ tennis player of the year, following a season where he ran his singles record to 20-2 and advanced to the Class 2-A state singles championships for the second consecutive season. His only losses came in the regional finals and the state tournament.
Johnson was routinely the toughest player in the area, and breezed through many conference and non-conference matches. He was named the Eastern Plains Conference player of the year.
Nash Central still keeps many of its rivalry matchups intact with the 3-A Big East Conference schools, and Johnson performed well against them. He went 2-0 against Southern Nash, and finished with 1-0 records against Northern Nash and Rocky Mount High.
Yet for Johnson, his most memorable performance of the season didn’t come until the semifinal round of the regional where he was facing an opponent who defeated him in straight sets a year ago.
The Nash Central senior learned from that match, made a few adjustments and devised a risky game plan that ultimately proved to pay off. Johnson won the match and advanced to the regional final.
In a recent interview, Johnson talked about his most memorable match, his tennis plans post-high school, and getting a second crack at the state tournament as part of the Telegram’s All-Area series.
What was it like playing at state for a second time in as many years?
This season, the second time I made it, I was a little more comfortable. I knew the place because I went there and played there the year before so it made it a little easier. But states is tough, of course. You go from playing in conference matches which were a little easier, to states where that is just a whole different level of competition.
What was your most memorable moment this season?
There was one that stands out. It happened at regionals when I played Lucieyn Stein (First Flight). I was able to beat him this year. I thought it was going to be a tough match going in because he beat me so bad from the year before.
How did you get past him this time?
I changed game plans and I was able to get him. I remembered the stuff he did well and the things he didn't do well. He served well and had a big, powerful game, but if I returned enough balls back he would eventually miss. So I didn't try to out-power him, but instead I just got the ball back deep and let him dictate the points. I told myself I am just going to get everything back and let him miss.
You probably don’t get a 20-2 record from playing like that all season. Was this new for you, to play defensively like that?
Absolutely. Mostly I’m on the offensive end, but I couldn't do that this time. It was very odd, like really odd, but I knew the game plan and I wanted to stick to it. I just told myself that I’m not going to try to hit hard, heavy balls, but instead just hit them deep and make him return them in play.
Do you like playing singles or doubles?
I like singles because everything is on your shoulders. If you mess up it’s on you, and it’s on you too if you do well. With a partner in doubles there’s a lot going on that’s sometimes hard to work out.
What got you into playing tennis?
My dad brought me out when I was younger and it just stuck with me.
Do you have plans to keep playing after high school?
Yeah, I’m going to Barton College. I’m going to try to get a starting spot there. ... If I don’t make it right away I can still play and practice and work toward a spot in the lineup.
Landon Norwood, Rocky Mount High
Sam Phillips, Rocky Mount High
Brody Brice, Rocky Mount High
Owen Hans, Northern Nash
Parker Strickland, Southern Nash
Dylan Alligood, Southern Nash
Isaiah Hernandez, Nash Central
Jose Garcia, Tarboro
Winston Johnson, Tarboro
Jackson Nethercutt, Faith Christian
Ty Peele, Faith Christian
Foster McAdams, Rocky Mount Academy
Thomas Boyette, Rocky Mount Academy