Brian Baker remains patient as he pursues return to professional tennis

Wednesday, June 12, 2013 at 10:35pm

Brian Baker decided to take the safe route rather than rush back into professional tennis in time for Wimbledon.

“As much as I hate to miss Wimbledon, I have decided to not make my return to the tour until July 22,” Baker said recently in Nashville. “My recovery is coming along well and pretty much as scheduled.”

Later, in a post for USA Today, he said, “My first tournament will most likely be the ATP in Atlanta or the Challenger in Lexington, Ky. (which both open the week of July 22). This was a tough decision but the right decision. I will have about seven weeks to get my knee entirely healthy and to continue to work on fitness.”

Baker, a Nashville native, has had five major surgeries over his injury plagued tennis career. The latest Jan. 15 during a second-round match in the Australian Open when he was wheeled off the court with another knee injury, this one sustained in a match against fellow American Sam Querry.

Baker led 7-6, 1-1 when he felt something pop in the knee as he back-peddled for a return. The injury was diagnosed as a torn lateral meniscus.

After finishing last year ranked No. 61, Baker was No. 57 in ATP rankings at the time he was hurt.

“The game is so tough and physical these days, so if one is not super fit and completely healthy, he will have virtually no chance to succeed,” he said. “Waiting until July will also will also allow me to obtain a protected ranking of 56.

“This ranking is not a real ranking but can be used to enter tournaments. I get to use this ranking for nine tournaments, which will help me get my ranking back quicker. I wish I had a protected ranking to use when I came back a few years ago. This time, I’ll escape from having to play [pre-tournament qualifying matches].”

He will still turn a wistful eye to Wimbledon, where last year he reached the fourth round – a career-best in a grand slam event.

“The most difficult part about returning in late July will be missing out on Wimbledon,” he said. “Last year’s Wimbledon was a dream tournament for me and was without a doubt the best result of my career to date.

“I will miss being around the unbelievable atmosphere. There is so much excitement among players and fans. It is always cool to see people camping out on the street for the next day’s tickets.”

The two-week tournament begins June 24.

Baker won the state AAA high school singles championship as a freshman at Hillwood High in 2000 and turned pro right after graduating in 2003.

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