After playing doubles tennis at Gering High School the last few years, senior Hunter Walker was itching for more.
This year, Walker stepped into the No. 2 singles role for the Bulldogs where he has made a big splash.
Gering tennis coach Ron Swank said Walker has found success by putting in a lot of hard work.
“He played No. 1 doubles the last two years. He decided he wanted to play No. 2 singles this year,” Swank said. “He took to it pretty well. He’s worked hard to change his game. Playing singles is different than doubles.”
Swank said Walker’s game is well-suited for singles play.
“He likes to drive people deep, keeping them back. The margin of error. He really worked hard. He’s lost two or three tiebreakers. He played all summer. He went to several tournaments with (playing singles) in mind. It’s been his goal,” Swank said. “He’s got good skills. He was our best net player in doubles last year — he’s still our best net player. His net play is good, it developed first. He’s a fairly tall kid, so it’s easy for him. He’s learning to do the ground strokes. He’s probably more aggressive going into the net than most No. 2 singles. Most of them just stand back. If you watch No. 2 singles, it’s 10 hits and the first one who misses is out. Hunter hits about three balls. He’s looking to get into the net. He plays more like a one than a two.”
Swank, though, said sometimes he has to slow down Walker.
“I have to pull him down,” Swank said. “My worst problem with Hunter is I got to wind him down because he gets uptight. He gets uptight and wants to go.”
“I play with my emotions on my sleeve. Sometimes it gets a little intense out there,” he said.
Walker said he played a lot of tennis over the summer to improve his game, but he has had help along the way.
“I worked with Darren Emerick over the summer, who is the Scottsbluff High head coach. He did a lot of stuff to help me. He took me to USTA tournaments in Colorado and Wyoming. That was really big. He didn’t really care that I was from Gering. He was trying to help out Panhandle tennis, not just Scottsbluff,” Walker said.
Walker worked a lot on his serving over the summer, Swank said.
“We’ve got two or three different serves we worked with him on because he likes spinning things,” he said. “We got him to hit a nice flat serve for a changeup. It’s just like pitching in baseball — you don’t want to throw the same pitch all the time,” Swank said.”You don’t want to put your serve in the same place all the time. Just like baseball, you keep putting down the middle and it’s out of the park. It’s just the same way in tennis. You got to move that target around because these good players will pick up on what you’re doing. He’s really learned to vary his game a lot better.”
“It’s trying to solve a puzzle. You can’t do the same thing against every player. You have to have different shots for different players.
Walker said he goes into every match with the same outlook.
“Just to stay in every point battle and not take any points off. And, make sure I make them earn everything,” he said.
But, he approaches each opponent a little differently, he said.
“It’s trying to solve a puzzle. You can’t do the same thing against every player. You have to have different shots for different players,” Walker said.
So far, he has had good results.
“I’ve beaten a lot of players where I thought I shouldn’t have won. I’ve lost to a couple I shouldn’t,” Walker said.
Walker said he is ready for the upcoming state tournament.
“It’s just the next step. You start winning and you want to take the next step and win some state matches,” he said. “I have the utmost confidence in myself. I’m not going to be intimidated by anyone.”