By Randy Walker
“He’s the last guy you want to see this happen to,” said a somewhat dazed Sam Querrey to ESPN2’s Brad Gilbert Wednesday during their TV interview as Brian Baker sat nearby on his courtside seat, questioning what could have happened to him that once again reluctantly pulled him off a tennis court, this time from a second-round match at the Australian Open.
After winning the first set 7-6 (2) against the No. 20-seeded Querrey, Baker, the man who endured five surgeries and a seven-year hiatus from pro tennis before a Cinderella-like return last year, became injured yet again.
With the score 1-1 in the second set. Baker moved to hit a wide backhand and pulled away lame, not able to put any weight on his right knee. He hopped to the side of the court, sat down and had tournament doctors treat him. However, it was quickly determined that his injury would not allow him to continue with the match.
Baker, age 27 and ranked No. 57, was playing for the first time at the Australian Open. During his seven years away from the circuit, he endured five surgeries over a six-year period (three hip surgeries, one elbow surgery and one hernia injury). At this time last year, Baker was ranked No. 456 in the world. However, he moved up the rankings when he won the 2012 USTA Savannah Challenger on the USTA Pro Circuit in May to earn a USTA-sponsored wild card entry into the French Open. Without having to play in the qualifying tournament at Roland Garros, Baker played the ATP event in Nice the week before, where he continued to surprise by making the singles final after winning three rounds in the qualifying rounds. His run up the rankings continued when he reached the round of 16 at Wimbledon, also via the qualifying rounds, to firmly establish himself as a top 100 player on the tour.
News of the injury and match retirement came with gasps of sorrow and empathy for those familiar with Baker’s dramatic tennis life.
The injury may have also cost Baker a chance at being named to the U.S. Davis Cup team for the first time in his career. With his current ranking of No. 57, he is the No. 3 active player in the ATP rankings behind No. 13 John Isner and No. 22 Querrey. However Isner withdrew from the Australian Open with a bruised knee and his health status is uncertain for the upcoming match against Brazil, set to be played one week after the end of the Australian Open Feb. 1-3 in Jacksonville, Florida.
“I’ve never had knee problems in my entire life,” said Baker to an Australian Open doctor, picked up by a courtside microphone.
Chris Fowler reported on ESPN2 that Baker’s injury is a meniscus cartilage tear and he will need surgery, taking him off the circuit for approximately four months.
Querrey advances into the third round of the tournament where he will next face Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland.