Unlike the majority of his opponents who rely on power and strength, Walsh’s style is classical – built on patience, versatility and shotmaking.
“His game is well-rounded,” explains Trinity head coach Chris Mather. “If he needs to serve and volley, he will. If he needs to stay back and rally, he will. If he needs to set-up the big shot, he will.” said Mather.
Walsh’s approach has paid off so far this season.
Ranked No. 4 in the state among 16-year-olds, he is 10-3 playing No. 1 singles for powerful Trinity.
Walsh first turned heads last season when he and doubles partner Rob Torsch made a surprise run to the state doubles semifinal, defeating No. 3 seed Kyle Coronel and Jack Seiffert of St. Xavier, before losing to eventual champs Ryan Least and Zack Lewis of Lexington Catholic.
“It was awesome. No one really expected much from us being just a freshman and a sophomore,” said Walsh. “Rob and I clicked and it’s fun playing doubles when you mesh well with your partner.”
This season Walsh has played a few doubles matches but has focused on singles. Mather thinks Walsh can be effective in both.
“Talent-wise, Emerson is one of the best I’ve ever seen and he’s just rounding into his body. If he makes another leap this year like he made last year, he’ll be one of the best ever (to come out of Trinity),” said Mather.
Walsh estimates that he spends roughly 20-25 hours a week on the court for training and matches.
In addition to long training hours, another factor in Walsh’s success is an outstanding pedigree.
Emerson’s father, Dr. Kevin Walsh, was a tennis star at Trinity and U of L where he played No. 1 singles from 1973-78. After a brief stint on the ATP Tour, he returned to U of L where he served as head tennis coach for 10 years.
Dr. Walsh, now a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the Speed School, was inducted into the U of L Athletic Hall of Fame in ’01.
Emerson’s older brother Spencer, a ’10 Trinity graduate, was captain of both the tennis and swimming teams his senior year and is now a freshman at Georgetown University where he studies business and competes as a varsity swimmer.
Walsh said his mother, Dr. Carol Summe, has been an important influence in his athletic career as well. “She’s real big into healthy foods so I’ve been eating healthy since I was young,” he said.
“My friends sometimes complain because we have no good food at our house – only fruit, vegetables, and that stuff,” Walsh joked.
No slouch in the classroom, Walsh is in the advanced placement track and carries a 4.0 GPA. Currently ranked second in his class, Walsh is determined to follow in the footsteps of his father and brother as class valedictorian.
Assistant coach Paul Vale said Walsh’s smarts are an asset on the court. “The greatest players in tennis have often been those guys who are the most analytical and could master the resources they had. I think Emerson’s got that,” he said.
Last Saturday Walsh suffered a rare loss when junior Beck Pennington of Greenwood (Bowling Green), the state’s No. 1 singles player, bested him 6-3, 6-2.