Brian Baker rides top 100 world ranking into U.S. Open

Thursday, August 23, 2012 at 7:40pm

Buoyed by a career best ATP ranking, Nashville’s Brian Baker is headed for New York and his opening match in next week’s U.S. Open tennis tournament.

Baker left Wednesday night and, courtesy of a No. 70 world ranking, easily qualified for the 128-player main draw. He already had secured a prior wild card entry.

“He won’t have to worry about having to fight through qualifying,” his father Steve Baker said. “His ranking was good enough for the main draw.”

That draw was set Thursday and Baker will play Jan Hajek of the Czech Republic in his opener, likely Tuesday at Flushing Meadow, N.Y. Hajek is No. 94 in the ATP rankings. The tournament opens Monday.

Baker has lost in the first round in three of four events he has entered since he made the fourth round at Wimbledon in late June. His lone victory was a good one, however, as he avenged his Wimbledon loss with a 7-6, 7-6 victory over Philipp Kolschreiber of Germany in the Western and Southern Open outside Cincinnati two weeks ago. Kolschreiber, ranked 20th in the world, was the No. 15 seed in that tournament.

If Baker makes it out of the first round at the U.S. Open, the year’s final major, he will take on the winner of the first-round match between No. 8 seed Janko Tipsarevic of Serbia and Guillaume Rufin of France.

Unlike his appearances at the French Open and Wimbledon, Baker also will play doubles in the U.S. Open. He will team with good friend and frequent doubles partner Rajeev Ram, a former All-American star at Illinois who received a wild card entry into the U.S. Open singles draw last week.

Baker and Ram played doubles in Cincinnati recently and won their first-round match. They lost in the second round to the eventual champions.

In 2002, the pair reached the Wimbledon Juniors final.

“Both have high enough ATP rankings to play singles, so they get in the doubles draw as well,” Steve Baker said. “Brian is really looking forward to that.

“He felt like he was physically strong enough to do both and hopefully, he’ll stay healthy.”

Baker had the misfortune of being matched up against Ram in the opening round of the Farmers Classic in Los Angeles last month and lost in two tough sets, 7-6, 7-5.