By Ann Liguori
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Brian Baker’s comeback is one of the more intriguing stories at the US Open this year. The 27-year-old from Knoxville, Tennessee — once one of the most promising junior players in the country — would probably like to erase the last six years from his memory, many of which were spent under the knife in surgery.
Baker is playing in his first US Open since 2005, and what joy he showed after beating Jan Hajek in straight sets on Court 11. He said that he was more nervous today than he would liked to have been, but “seven years is a long time,” he acknowledged.
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As a junior player, Baker reached a ranking of number two back in June 2003. But a promising career all but vanished when Baker endured more surgeries on various parts of his body than Evel Knievel in his prime. Between November 2005 and July 2011, Baker had five surgeries: left hip surgery in November 2005, a sports hernia surgery in 2006 and left hip, right hip and right elbow surgeries in 2008. He took three years to recover from the Tommy John surgery on his elbow and returned unranked in July 2011. His comeback started when he won a Futures event in Pittsburgh.
This year — along with Baker finishing RU as a qualifier at Nice, winning a Challenger event and two Futures titles –he has made noise in the Majors, particularly at Wimbledon where he reached the round of 16 as a qualifier! And now he finds himself in the U.S. Open, his first as a direct entry in Flushing Meadows. He’s ranked number 70 after climbing from 458.
“This is the first Grand Slam I have played where I haven’t had to qualify or get a wild card,” said Baker. “It’s always exciting to play the Open, but that was another sense of just pride, knowing I had done it on my own. I hope to be able to play several more US Opens, but I don’t take any of them for granted.”
Baker gives new meaning to comeback stories!
And he’s learned a thing or two in the process.
“I definitely think I’m more mature,” Baker admitted. “I’ve handled the ups and downs a little bit better in the match. I’ve gotten through a lot of adversity over the years, and every match you’re going to have adversity. How you deal with that can sometimes mean the difference between winning and losing. I think the last time I played here I was 19, 20 years old; being 27, I feel just a little bit stronger.”
Baker next faces 8th seed Janko Tipsarevic. Here’s to Baker and one of the best all-time comeback stories in tennis!
Do you remember Baker when he was an up-and-coming player? Hopefully he can make a miracle run in Flushing! Sound off with your thoughts and comments in the section below…