Baker set for remarkable return in Paris
Originally published on: 10/05/12 00:00
Brian Baker once beat Marcos Baghdatis and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the quarter-finals and semi-finals at Roland Garros before losing to Stanislas Wawrinka in the final. Nine years after finishing runner-up in the boys’ competition at the French Open, the 27-year-old from Nashville, Tennessee is returning to Paris later this month to renew acquaintance with some of his rivals from junior days.
Considering that he was out of tennis for the best part of six years, it is a remarkable return. Baker had a succession of injuries and had five operations – three of them on his hips – before winning a Futures tournament in his first comeback event last year. His subsequent progress is such that he is now No.216 in the world rankings, which is just 44 places short of the career-high position he reached in 2004.
Baker has been given a wild card in Paris under a reciprocal arrangement between the French and US tennis authorities. He earned it with his performances in two recent clay-court Challenger events, for both of which he had to qualify. Baker beat Michael Russell, Robert Kendrick and Robby Ginepri en route to the title in Savannah, having earlier beaten Ryan Sweeting before losing to Sam Querrey in the last 16 in Sarasota.
“I just want to keep the momentum going,” Baker said. “I've been playing well the last couple of months. I'm still not even a year back of playing full-time tennis. I started last July. I feel like I'm just now hitting my stride. I don't have any specific expectations this summer that I have to get to a certain round or get this many points, but I'd love to keep on playing great tennis.”
Baker said he had enjoyed success on clay in the past and was particularly looking forward to playing in Paris again. “That is a pretty special tournament,” he said. “It’s nice to go back to a place where you have good memories and played well before, even though I guess it's been nine years since that happened.”