Baker cruises to straight-set victory in Wimbledon opener

Tuesday, June 26, 2012 at 3:26pm
Staff reports

Picking up steam as the match went along, Nashville's Brian Baker won his opening round match at Wimbledon on Tuesday.

Baker, 27, plagued with injuries and surgeries the past six years, continued his surprising return to professional tennis with a 7-6, 6-4, 6-0 victory over Rui Machado of Portugal on Wimbledon's Court 16.

"My backhand is my main shot, but at times, I tried to mixed it up, trying to get him [Machado] out of his rhythm,'' Baker said during an ESPN interview shortly after the match.

He plays his second round match Thursday against left-hander Jarkko Nieminen of Finland. Nieminen, ranked 44th in the world, upset No. 14 seed Feliciano Lopez of Spain in four sets.

After the first set went on serve to 6-6, Baker played a solid tiebreaker, winning 7-2. He broke serve early in the second set to take command, then cruised, winning the last seven games of the match.

"I was just glad to be able to stand up, since I played just one game the last time I was here,'' Baker said, referring an ACL injury he suffered in the very first game of a qualifying match in 2005, which started his injury woes.

It started a woeful period of five surgeries in six years.

"It was hard. You've given so much for something you really love, and you have it taken away,” he said. “I've definitely experienced a lot of highs and lows. It's taken six years. You learn to take nothing for granted.

"But I never doubted myself. When you get to this level, you have to play with a great deal of confidence, because if you don't you, won't get very far. I've gotten better as I've gone along.''

His comeback continues to be one of the big stories in tennis.

ESPN analyst Brad Gilbert said, "Given the way he's been playing, I think Brian has an excellent chance to get to the second week [at Wimbledon]. Not to look too far ahead, I think he possibly can reach the round of 16.''