Baker: I always knew I hit the ball well
Originally published on: 31/05/12 00:00
American Brian Baker has attracted plenty of attention at this year’s French Open, his first major appearance in seven years, but it's pretty safe to say that this won't be the last we’ll hear of the 27-year-old Nashville native.
Though his second Grand Slam main draw effort ended in a valiant 6-4 6-1 6-7 1-6 6-0 defeat to world No.12 Gilles Simon yesterday, Baker has shown enough fight in recent months to suggest he’s planning to make the very most of his time back on the ATP Tour.
Last week he reached his first ATP final in Nice, beating Sergiy Stakhovsky, Gael Monfils, Mikhail Kukushkin and Nikolay Davydenko before finally succumbing to defending champion Nicolas Almagro. He leapt 75 places to a career-high No.141 in the rankings and is set for a further climb after beating Xavier Malisse in the first round in Paris.
A story of tremendous grit and determination, Baker returned to the game last summer after over six years away with numerous injuries and five operations, including three on his hips, a sports hernia surgery in 2006 and right elbow surgery in 2008.
"I never reached the point where I said I was ready to throw in the towel," said Baker. "You have to be realistic. I wasn't going to keep on having major surgeries to try to continue my career. Fortunately I have been able to start feeling better as of 2011 and here I am now."
It's a full nine years since Baker reached the Roland Garros boys' final as a talented junior. He lost to Stanislas Wawrinka in that 2003 battle, but won the prestigious Orange Bowl tournament and peaked at No.2 in the world. After all his trials and tribulations since, Baker is now tipped for a Wimbledon wild card and says he is not surprised by his recent showings against big-name players.
“I always knew that I hit the ball well,” he said. “I've always had confidence in my ability. It's just whether I've been able to put in the training hours and fitness hours off the court to be able to play match in, match out."