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Northwestern High School

Northwestern High School/ Northwestern High School

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Posted On: Tuesday, April 14, 2015
By: tdendy

Singles tennis player was undefeated as a freshman in regular season

By Eric Goldwein Staff Writer egoldwein@gazette.net

Dan Gross/The Gazette

Northwestern High School’s Desire Johnson hits a shot Tuesday against Laurel.

Desire Johnson grew up around tennis. Before he started playing, he would tag along with his father, James Johnson, and watch him teach lessons at the non-profit Washington Tennis & Education Foundation (WTEF) in Washington D.C. By the time Desire Johnson was 6 years old, he had picked up a racket and started learning the sport. Just a few years later, he became a force on the youth national tournament circuit.

“He was around tennis all the time,” James Johnson said. “That’s how he fell in love with the game. It was just natural.”

Now a sophomore, Desire Johnson has looked like a natural on the Northwestern High School coed tennis team. That’s a rarity for both the Hyattsville School, and Prince George’s County. As a freshman in 2014, he went undefeated in the regular season and won a district championship but ended up falling to Roosevelt’s Vijay Golla (Class of 2014) in the Prince George’s County Region II finals. A 2014 All-Gazette second team selection, Desire Johnson remains one of the top talents in Prince George’s County tennis this spring.

“He’s certainly in a league of his own,” Northwestern coach Tim Ghazzawi said. “It was very clear from the start that he was at a different level.

“… The biggest thing is that he’s very cool under pressure. To go undefeated as a freshman is relatively unprecedented in Prince George’s County.”

Tennis runs in Desire Johnson’s family. His father, James Johnson, grew up training at WTEF — a tennis organization for underserved children in Washington, D.C. — and has coached there for more than 22 years, he said. Desire Johnson’s siblings also play; his older sister, Charrisha Watkins, trained at WTEF and played women’s tennis at Gettysburg College.

Tennis isn’t Desire Johnson’s only sport. When he’s not dominating the county competition on the courts, he’s running routes and knocking down passes for Northwestern’s football team. James Johnson said it’s hard to judge how Desire Johnson’s football and tennis skills — one is a team sport and the other individual — but that his work ethic is consistent across both sports.

“I can tell you this much,” James Johnson said. “He competes just as hard.”

Desire Johnson said he wants to compete after high school. He’s undecided about what school and which sport — “Whichever one gets me the most money” — but for now he’s trying to have another dominant season in Prince George’s County tennis by winning districts and regionals.

“I should do pretty good this year. Maybe even better,” Desire Johnson said. “[I'll need] to be consistent. Play well, every time, every match.”

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