Brian Baker Drops Five Set Thriller in French Open Second Round
PARIS, France - - Belmont University men's tennis assistant coach Brian Baker dropped a thrilling five-set match to No. 11 seed Gilles Simon of France, 6-4, 6-1, 6-7, 1-6, 6-0, in second round play of the 2012 French Open Wednesday.
Baker, a 27 year old Nashville native whose comeback story from five surgeries and a six-year hiatus has garnered international press coverage, stood toe-to-toe with one of the world's elite players.
Simon, a 27 year old Frenchman who has risen as high as No. 6 in the official world rankings, rode a strong serve and a partisan home crowd at featured court Philippe Chatrier to seize early control.
After claiming set one 6-4, Simon won 78 percent of his first serve points while also winning 17 of 30 receiving points in taking set two six games to one.
Baker, making his first grand slam appearance since 2005, dug deep and conjured images from his opening round victory over Xavier Malisse and his French Open boys' final appearance nine years prior.
Despite missing out on an opportunity to serve out the third set at 5-4, Baker utilized aggressive play and nice variety in taking a third set tiebreak, seven points to four.
Baker's momentum continued into set four. Efficient service - coupled with Simon's rare inconsistency on serve - enabled Baker to break in games two and six and close set four, six games to one.
Having won 16 of 21 service points in set four, and with the heavily favored native son feeling the pressure, Baker appeared poised to orchestrate one of the great single-match comebacks in recent grand slam memory.
But fitness told the story in set five.
With his ATP final appearance this past weekend in Nice, which included three qualifying matches for entry into the main draw, Baker was playing his 10 match in 12 days. Moreover, going from best of three sets to best of five sets in a grand slam, it was Baker's first career five set match on the ATP circuit.
After Simon held serve in game one of the fifth set, Baker staved off three break points before his counterpart broke to take a 2-0 lead.
Simon closed from there.
All told, Baker laced 52 winners and won 59 percent of his first serve points. Many of Baker's total match statistics became skewed in the fifth set after court time took its toll, with 18 of his 64 unforced errors coming in the final frame.
When asked about his comeback, Baker told the Tennis Channel recently, "I know how easy tennis was taken away from me. That just makes it that much sweeter this time."