After spending more than a year sidelined with an elbow injury, Chris Walker is almost philosophic about the game of tennis.
"Every time we come out with a lot of intensity, with a lot of spirit," Walker said, "I think we'll do really well. Not that you don't have to worry about the outcome, but everything will fall into place."
Things certainly fell into place for Walker and the Kansas tennis team Saturday. Walker won both his singles and doubles matches, and KU ripped Wichita State, 8-1. The matches started at the Allen Fieldhouse courts, but rain forced them to Alvamar's indoor courts.
"Overall, I thought we played pretty well," said KU coach Scott Perelman. "I told them afterwards that I've seen this thing change around. When I first got here, Wichita State was beating us, 8-1. Last year we beat them, 7-2, and now we're beating them, 8-1.
"WE PLAYED with a lot of poise today. This was the first day all year all six guys played good singles."
Walker's re-entry to the program has provided a boost, Perelman said. Walker, a red-shirt junior from Grand Rapids, Mich., finished fourth in the Big Eight with a 24-18 record, primarily in the No. 2 slot, during the 1987-88 year.
He was red-shirted last season to nurse a bout with ulnar neuritis, which eventually required surgery.
"I think he's doing great," Perelman said. "It's really a joy for me personally and a great boost for the team to have him back. If you take time to watch him play, you can see he's as good an athlete as there is in this country. Without him for 15 months, you can see what a big boost he is to the program."
IN THE No. 3 singles spot Saturday, Walker defeated WSU's Andrew Ritter, 7-5, 6-1, outside. He and partner John Falbo took the first set from Darren Price and Peter Swanell, 6-3, outdoors, then moved inside to win the second set, 7-5, in the No. 1 doubles slot.
"I started off a little slow," Walker said of his singles win. "I think I was putting a little too much pressure on myself to break his serve. In the second set, I was more relaxed. If I was as relaxed in the first set, it wouldn't have been that close."
The move indoors during the doubles match didn't bother Walker.
"You've gotta adjust to the environment," he said. "It wasn't too bad. The ball's a little faster inside, and it's a little more difficult for us to break their serve. But it just makes us better players."
"I THOUGHT it was great because it happens in Big Eight matches a lot," he said. "Weather changes make you move indoors a lot, and we played well on both surfaces."
Big Eight play begins this week. KU will travel to Missouri on Tuesday, then host Iowa State on Saturday and Nebraska on Sunday.
"I like our chances a lot," Perelman said of the conference opposition. "I think we have the talent and the ability to control our own destiny."
Kansas 8, Wichita State 1
Singles: John Falbo, KU, def. Darren Price, 6-3, 6-1. Jeff Gross, KU, def. Darren Frlan, 7-6 (7-3), 4-6, 6-2. Chris Walker, KU, def. Andrew Ritter, 7-5, 6-1. Rafael Rangel, KU, def. Peter Swanell, 6-3, 6-2. Carlos Fleming, KU, def. Lance Lechner, 6-3, 6-4. Paul Garvin, KU, def. Jason Grubb, 6-2, 7-5.
Doubles: Falbo/Walker def. Price/Swanell, 6-3, 7-5. Ridder/Frland, def. Garvin/Fleming, 7-6 (7-5), 6-1. Gross/Rangel def. Lechner/Grubb, 6-2, 6-2.