Each year around the 4th of July week there is a low-level USTA pro “Futures” tournament in Mt. Lebanon, PA I try to attend and shoot. All of the players in it are lowly ranked on the men’s professional ATP tour. Few are American, and most are also not household names you'll ever see on the TV.
Last year while shooting players at that tournament, I kept following one fellow who was on a higher level than any opponent he faced. This guy was calm as can be, and like every true professional, made it look easy while never wavering in the face of adversity. He ended up winning the event with many of the other players sticking around to just watch him in the final.
It wasn’t until after the match that I learned Brian Baker had turned pro six or seven years prior. He looked promising then in beating some highly-ranked players that fans of the sport would know, then fell victim to various serious injuries. In 2011 he was just beginning a comeback at 26 years old - approaching middle-age in tennis terms!
I had not seen him again until I turned on the TV the other morning to watch ESPN 2’s coverage of Wimbledon. There he was giving a beat-down to tour veteran, Jarkko Nieminen “the flying Fin” and breezing into the third round. How cool, and extremely rare, it was to see a player I had watched at a local, low-level event get so far in such a short amount of time!
His is an amazing comeback story and I’m glad I got to witness some of it in person. American tennis being what it is currently, ESPN’s Chris Fowler, Brad Gilbert and the boys are just loving having a story like this to talk about.
Good job Brian!
So I can only wish Brian Baker the best good luck going forward, and hope to see him keep playing well. Something tells me he won’t be back to defend his "Men’s Futures of Pittsburgh" crown in 2012 however!
Incidentally if you like tennis as much as I do, there’s a great book available that talks all about the Federer-Nadal rivalry and the greatest match ever played. Read more about it here!