The world of tennis often has stories that capture the imagination of fans and followers of the sport, and the stories of those individuals become quite inspirational. In 2012 one such story is that of the comeback of Brian Baker, the American tennis player who for almost a decade was not able to compete on the Tour because of injuries and surgeries.
Now, at the age of 27 he has been given a second chance. Since late April, Brian Baker has been on a wonderful journey and that journey will be making a transit stop in Kuala Lumpur, as the ATP World Tour weaves its way through Asia in a month’s time.
IMG’s Nick Freyer, Tournament Director of the Malaysian Open, Kuala Lumpur today announced that Brian Baker has been given the first main draw wild card for the event to be played 22 to 30 September at the Putra Stadium, Bukit Jalil.
“We are excited that Brian has accepted the first singles main draw wild card,” Freyer said. “His story is truly inspirational; to think that a year ago he was coaching a college team in the United States having undergone five major surgeries to include a repaired elbow, hip and more.
“His comeback has been one of the most talked about stories in tennis and his determination to never give up has allowed him to move his world ranking from the deepest depths, to now be at a career high of 70. His story is one of the sports stories of 2012 and our very welcoming tennis fans will have the opportunity to congratulate him for his achievements live when he plays the Malaysian Open, Kuala Lumpur.”
From the US Open in New York where he is playing, Baker sent his thanks to the tournament.
“I am really pleased and appreciative to receive a wild card for Kuala Lumpur,” Baker said. “I have not made many trips to Asia and this would be my first time coming to Malaysia, so I am really looking forward to seeing a new city and a different culture. I’m sure it is going to be a fascinating experience and something quite different as this amazing year continues for me.”
As a junior, Baker was ranked two in the world – he was a finalist at the French Open juniors losing to Swiss No.2 Stan Wawrinka and won the prestigious Orange Bowl, but not long after he began to play the regular tour, the injuries started.
What should have been breakthrough results were interrupted as injuries and more injuries followed. Three different hip surgeries, a sports hernia and reconstructive surgery on his elbow, a year missed due to osteochondritis on the left femur in his kneecap, requiring surgery to shave down bad bone and take bone chips from his hip, and on it went. He even became injured playing Novak Djokovic in Wimbledon qualifying in 2005 and retired after two games.
Most would have given up any dreams and hopes of following a path in pro tennis. Baker was heading the same way but still in the corner of his mind there was some hope and belief that one day, the dim light at the end of the tunnel would get brighter. He was not prepared to let things go completely.
While coaching at a college he was also managing to play inter-club tennis with his father and uncle, Baker began to feel healthy. Earlier this Summer, he won a Challenger in Savannah, Georgia which gave him the USTA’s wild card for the French Open. He then went to Nice where he qualified and reached the final of the ATP 250 tournament; the journey that became the inspiring story had begun.
At the French Open he reached the second round where he took Gilles Simon to five sets on Court Philippe Chatrier. Next was Wimbledon and this time he qualified and then reached the last 16. It meant he had won six matches, in essence the number of matches one requires to reach a Wimbledon final.
“This whole year has been incredibly special for me,” Baker said. “It wasn’t that long ago when I wondered about my tennis future with all the time I had spent away from the circuit because of my injuries and surgeries, but I am a pretty competitive guy and I love this sport and that kept my hopes and beliefs alive.
“Getting the French Open wild card and doing well there allowed me to say that I was back. It has been like a whirlwind journey and very exciting to be a part of, while getting to enjoy so many new experiences which I am sure Kuala Lumpur is going to be another one.”
So seven years after the last time he played a full season on the tour, Brian Baker has a new lease of life with his career, and Kuala Lumpur is getting the chance to see what this “Baker Boy” is all about.