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Southern Spotlight - Brian Baker's Magical Run in Paris Comes to an End

June 11, 2003 09:27 AM

Brian Baker (photo credit: Scott Olivenbaum)
The biggest American story to come out of this year's French Open did not involve anyone named Williams, Davenport, Agassi or Roddick. Instead eighteen-year-old Nashville, TN native Brian Baker nearly pulled off an amazing sweep of both the singles and doubles titles at the just completed 2003 French Open Junior Championships.

In singles play Baker, who entered the event seeded No. 6, defeated three other seeded players enroute to the finals. In the round-of-16 Baker defeated No. 10 seed, Hungary's Gyorgy Balazs, and then in the quarterfinals he swept top seed, Cyprus' Marko Baghdatis, in straight sets, 6-4, 7-5. Baghdatis entered the event as the No. 1 junior player in the world after winning the Australian Open Junior Championships in January.

In Friday's semifinal matchup Baker dominted Frenchman, and No. 4 seed, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, winning in straight sets, 6-3, 6-3. Unfortunately, Baker's magic ran out in the finals against No. 5 seed, Switzerland's Stanislas Wawrinka. In a grueling three setter Wawrinka edged out Baker by a score of 7-5, 4-6, 6-3.

Baker's run marks the first time in more than a decade that an American has reached the boys' final.

The last person to sweep both the singles and doubles championships at the French Open was Yevgueny Kafelnikov in 1996.

John McEnroe was the last American to win the Roland Garros boys' singles title in 1977. Jonathan Palmer was the last American to reach the boys' final, losing to Fabrice Santoro in 1989. That year Jennifer Capriati, at the age of 13, became the last U.S. player to win the French Open girls' singles title. Ashley Harkleroad lost in the girls singles final to Angelique Widjaja here last year.

In doubles play, Baker partnered with New York native Phillip Simmonds. Simmonds, currently the No. 1 ranked doubles player on the international junior circuit, took home the Australian Open Junior Championships this past January with partner Scott Oudsema.

Before their semifinal meeting on Saturday with Hungary's Gyorgy Balazs and Israel's Dudi Sela, Baker and Simmonds had only dropped one set in their previous three matches. Against Balazs and Sela the Americans started the match uncharacteristically flat, losing the first set 6-3. They came back to even the match in the second set, handily defeating Balazs and Sela, 6-2. The deciding set was a fierce battle with both sides displaying exemplary tennis. Unfortunately for Baker and Simmonds their efforts fell short as they lost the match, 3-6, 6-2, 4-6.

With his outstanding results in Paris, Baker moved up to a career-high No. 2 in singles and No. 5 in doubles in this week’s ITF World Junior Rankings.

Balazs and Sela went on to win the doubles championship the next day, defeating Slovakia's Kamil Capkovic and Georgia's Lado Chikhladze, 5-7, 6-1, 6-2.

Click here for complete French Open coverage.


Brian Baker Player Information

RANKING HISTORY
2003 – 3 (ITF singles), 5 (ITF doubles), 1 (USTA 18s)
2002 – 6 (ITF), 1 (USTA 18s)
2001 – 13 (ITF), 1 (USTA 18s)
2000 – 159 (ITF), 2 (USTA 16s)

JUNIOR HIGHLIGHTS

2003

  • Became the first U.S. player since Jared Palmer in 1989 to make the French Open junior final… Seeded sixth in the event, posted a huge upset in the quarterfinals, where he eliminated world No. 1 and top-seed Marko Baghdatis of Cypress, 6-4, 7-5. He then defeated No. 4 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France, 6-3, 6-3, in the semifinals, before losing a three-set final to Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland, 7-5, 4-6, 6-3… Also reached the semifinals (with Phillip Simmonds) in the doubles event, losing to eventual champions Gyorgy Balazs of Hungary and Dudi Sela of Israel, 6-3, 2-6, 6-4.
  • As the No. 1 seed in both events, swept the singles and doubles (with Phillip Simmonds) titles at the 39th Astrid Bowl Charleroi, Belgian International Junior Championships… In singles, did not drop a set en route to the final, where he defeated Jorge Aguilar of Chile, 6-1, 6-1… Also did not lose a set in the doubles event, eliminating Australians Adam Feeney and Lachlan Ferguson, 7-5, 6-1, in the final.
  • Reached the doubles semifinals (with Brendan Evans) at the Australian Open Junior Championships.
  • Advanced to the singles and doubles quarterfinals (with Evans) at the Australian Hardcourt Junior Championships.

2002

  • Won the singles title and reached the doubles quarterfinals (with Evans) at the BURGER KING Orange Bowl.
  • Swept both the singles and doubles titles (with Luis Flores) at the Chanda Rubin North/Central American & Caribbean Junior Championships in Tulsa.
  • Won the singles title at the Kentucky International Junior Tennis Derby, defeating Josh Cohen, 6-1, 6-4 in the final… Did not drop a set throughout the tournament.
  • Was a double finalist (with Chris Guccione) at the US Open Junior Championships.
  • Reached the singles semifinals and the double quarterfinals (with Chris Kwon) at the USTA Super National Hard Court Championships.
  • Finished runner-up in doubles (with Rajeev Ram) at the Wimbledon Junior Championships.
  • Advanced to the singles quarterfinals at the LTA International Junior Tennis Championships – Roehampton.
  • Won the doubles title (with Evans) and advanced to the singles semifinals at the 38th Astrid Bowl, Belgian International Junior Championships.
  • Was a semifinalist at the Target Cup, the junior event held in conjunction with the Nasdaq-100 Open in Key Biscayne, Fla.
  • Advanced to the round of 16 at the Australian Open Junior Championships.
  • Finished runner-up in doubles (with Frank Dancevic) and advanced to the quarterfinals in singles at the Australian Hardcourt Junior Championships.

2001

  • Was chosen to represent the United States at the Sunshine Cup, the ITF’s official team competition for boys’ 18 and younger.
  • Won the singles title and finished runner-up in doubles at the Chanda Rubin North/Central American & Caribbean Closed Championships in Baton Rouge, La.
  • Reached the singles semifinals and the doubles final (with Matthew Emery) at the Kentucky International Junior Tennis Derby.
  • As a wild-card entrant, lost to No. 158-ranked Tomas Zib in the first round of the US Open qualifying tournament, 6-2, 6-4.
  • Reached the singles final at the USTA Boys’ 18s Super National Hard Court Championships, losing to Alex Bogomolov.
  • Advanced through qualifying to the main draw of the junior Wimbledon championships…
  • Defeated Prakash Amritraj in the first round, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, and extended No. 1 seed Janko Tipsarevic to three sets in the second round, 7-6 (4), 3-6, 6-3.
  • Reached the semifinals of the Coffee Bowl, losing to Ytai Abougzir, 6-3, 6-1.

2000

  • Upset Tres Davis in the first round of the US Open boy’s singles event, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4, before losing to Daniel Munoz of Spain in the second round, 6-4, 6-3.
  • In his first appearance in an ITF World Junior Ranking event, won the title at the USTA Junior International Hard Courts, defeating Adam Kennedy in the final, 6-3, 6-4.
  • Won the USTA Boys’ 16s Clay Court Championships, defeating Derrick Bauer in the final, 6-2, 6-1.
  • Won the Boys’ 16s doubles title at the Easter Bowl.
  • Posted a 3-1 singles record and a 2-0 doubles record in the NEC World Youth Cup Final in Hiroshima, Japan. The World Youth Cup is the Davis Cup equivalent for juniors’ 16 and younger.

1999

  • Was a singles finalist and doubles champion at Les Petits As, the most prestigious international 14-and-under tournament in the world. Became the first American to reach the boys’ singles final since Brian Dunn won the title in 1988.

1998

  • Defeated Ram in the singles final, 3-6, 7-6 (6), 6-3, then teamed with him to defeat Hart Ku and Eric Longenkamp, 6-4, 6-1, in the doubles final.
  • Was a singles finalist at the USTA Boys’ 14 National Championships… Lost to Doug Stewart, 3-6, 7-5, 6-1.

PROFESSIONAL HIGHLIGHTS

  • Won the doubles title (with Phillip Simmonds) and reached the singles quarterfinals at the USTA Futures event in Orange Park, Fla… Defeated Brendan Evans and Marcos Ondruska, 4-6, 7-5, 6-4, in the doubles final and lost to Matias Boeker, 6-3, 6-4, in singles.
  • Reached the quarterfinals of the USTA Futures event in Vero Beach, Fla., losing to Rafael de Mesa, 7-6 (3), 6-3.
  • Advanced to the semifinals of the USTA Futures event in Elkin, N.C., where he fell to eventual champion Josh Goffi, 7-5, 6-4.
  • After qualifying into the event, reached his first final in a professional tournament at the 2003 USTA Futures event in Little Rock, Ark.… Lost in the championship match to Ignacio Hirigoyen, 3-6, 7-5, 6-3.
  • Was named a practice partner for the U.S. Davis Cup team that faced Croatia in the 2003 Davis Cup by NEC first-round tie.
  • Was a quarterfinalist at the 2002 USTA Futures event in Hammond, La., where he lost to Tripp Phillips, 6-4, 6-2… Upset top-seed Justin Bower, 6-4, 6-4, in the first round.
  • Qualified into the 2002 USTA Futures event in Arlington, Texas, and advanced to the semifinals, before falling to Huntley Montgomery in a third-set tie-break, 6-7 (5), 6-3, 7-6 (5).
  • Advanced to the quarterfinals of the 2002 USTA Futures event in St. Joseph, Mo., where he fell to Takahiro Terachi, 7-6 (4), 6-3.
  • Reached his first professional semifinal at the 2002 USTA Futures event in Elkin, N.C., losing to eventual champion Andres Pedroso, 4-6, 6-3, 6-1.

PERSONAL

  • Father, Steve, is an attorney and is also Brian’s coach; mother, Jackie, is a teacher. Has an older sister, Kathryn, and older brother, Art.
  • Was introduced to tennis at age 2½ by his father.
  • Favorite playing surface is hard court.
  • Is sponsored by adidas and Babolat.
  • Favorite tennis player is Andre Agassi.
  • Enjoys playing golf, video games and basketball.
 

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