Baker goes from hit-and-giggle on grass to Wimbledon last 16 as fairytale continues
17:09 GMT, 30 June 2012
Brian Baker has gone from playing 'hit-and-giggle' grass-court tennis with friends to amazing his family and the wider sporting world by reaching the last 16 at Wimbledon.
The 27-year-old was unranked just a year ago, a once leading junior whose hopes of a career in the game had been seemingly ruined by a succession of injuries.
But having undergone a succession of operations, Baker gave it one last shot, and beat France's Benoit Paire 6-4, 4-6, 6-1, 6-3 to reach the fourth round of the world's most famous grand slam.
Wonderful week: Baker
Fortunately his family have already extended their stay in London to include Monday, when he will face 27th seed Philipp Kohlschreiber for a place in the quarter-finals.
'I think they had to change their flights twice, they weren't that confident in me starting out,' said Baker, smiling.
'I was just excited that they were able to come back over. They came over for the French Open, so it's nice to see my dad was able to take time off work again.
'It makes it a lot more special to be able to share it with my family and girlfriend than it is if you're just doing it on your own.'
Baker's comeback began on the golf course last summer.
That was when the Nashville resident found out he had been given a wild card into a Futures tournament in Pittsburgh, only his third event since 2005. Not only did he qualify, he won the tournament.
The former French Open boys' finalist has said repeatedly that he never doubted his ability, and he really came back onto the radar when he won a Challenger tournament in April that earned him a wild card into the French Open.
A week before Roland Garros he qualified for his first ATP World Tour event in almost seven years, in Nice, and then beat the likes of Gael Monfils and Nikolay Davydenko to reach the final.
There were calls for Baker to be given a wild card for Wimbledon, but now he is through to the last 16, the American is grateful that did not happen.
He said: 'I wasn't that disappointed that I didn't get one. I needed the match practice on the courts. My only grass-court match was at Queen's qualifying and I lost. I didn't feel I was comfortable on the stuff.
'There's actually two grass courts at the club where I grew up at back in Nashville. I think I once played hit-and-giggle tennis on that. I played a pro-am doubles tournament up in the Hamptons with a buddy from Nashville on grass.
Into the second week: Baker will play Phillip Kohlschreiber in the last 16
'But those courts are nothing compared to these. They're a lot softer. It had been seven years since I played on a similar style grass court.'
Baker's victory today, over an opponent who badly lost his cool in the third and fourth sets, ensures he will break into the top 100 for the first time in his career.
Asked if he still has to pinch himself, Baker said: 'I'm sure I will. It's been unreal. When I'm on the court I know I definitely have nerves. Closing out the match you definitely know what's on the table, what you can accomplish.
'I missed a few shots at the end that I probably wouldn't miss if it was the quarters of a Challenger and not trying to get to the round of 16 at Wimbledon.
'It is crazy, what's going on. But I'm still trying to stay focused on the task at hand and not get too wrapped up in it.
'Because once you do that, I think it's tough to be able to play your best tennis once you're happy that you've been there.
'So I'm trying every match to go in there hungry and try to win the next one instead of thinking, “I'm in the round of 16 of Wimbledon, this is awesome”.'